Julie of the Wolves

by Jean George

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Find examples of personification, simile, and metaphor in Julie of the Wolves.

Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George, employs personification, simile, metaphor to create imagery.

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The attitudes that Julie (or Miyax) has toward nature encourage the use of personification, which means to endow concepts or inanimate objects with human characteristics. This is distinguished from anthropomorphism, which is endowing animate creatures with human characteristics. The author often uses similes, which are comparisons for effect made between unlike things using the words “like” or “as”; through such comparisons, Julie presents the wolves as similar to humans. As the book is rich in sensory—especially visual—imagery, the author uses many metaphors, or direct comparisons for effect between unlike things. Often, these comparisons are between different kinds of natural features or between different sensory impressions.

Personification is used for the sun, describing its motions as “climbing” and “sitting”; the sun “had not climbed up the sky but was still sitting on the horizon.”

In describing the quick movement of the wolves, Julie employs a simile in remarking that they “sped away like dark birds.” When she is hunting birds, she recalls the lessons Kapugen taught her and remains immobile, “still as a stone.”

A metaphor is used to compare a wolf’s eyes to jewels: they “hardened into brittle yellow jewels.” Julie also describes her own appearance using figurative language. First, she compares the water, where she sees her reflection, to glass: “the glassy water.” Also, with the term “moon-faced,” she says that typical Inuit (Eskimo) faces are round. When she observes the pack’s behavior, with Jello taking last place, Julie compares it to her own society’s customs: “He was low man on the totem pole.”

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A good example of a metaphor can be found in part 3, when Miyax sees the plane from which the hunters shoot at Amaroq. George writes that "civilization became this monster that snarled across the sky." The plane here is a symbol of civilization. It doesn't literally become a monster, but this metaphor gives us a good insight into Miyax's perspective. For Miyax, the plane is a monster that takes her father from her.

In part 2, the author writes that the Eskimos always knew that the earth was round, rather than flat, because they could see that "the earth's relatives, the sun and the moon," were also round. This is an example of personification. The planets are personified as living entities, because this is how the Eskinos see them.

In part 1, George describes the weather using a simile. She describes the fog "thicken[ing] and, like an eraser on a blackboard, wip[ing] out Amaroq and Silver and the tip of Kapu's tail." This simile creates a vivid image of just how thick the fog is; it completely erases Miyax's view of the wolves.

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These three figures of speech can be found throughout the text. My recommendation is to look in earlier parts of the book—where Miyax is trying to acclimate herself to her new situation—because the narrative uses figures of speech that give readers a way to visualize Miyax's experience.

Similes are a great way to do this, because they often compare something foreign with something that we know quite well (or that Miyax knows well). For example, Miyax identifies a particular wolf because it carries itself like her father:

She had chosen him because he was much larger than the others, and because he walked like her father, Kapugen, with his head high and his chest out.

A few pages later, readers are told about a flock of birds and crane flies in the grass that suddenly take to flight, and we get a beautiful simile:

Birds wheeled, turned, and called. Thousands sprang up from the ground like leaves in a wind.

As for metaphor, the second sentence of the book contains a good example of a metaphor that describes the sun:

It was a yellow disc in a lime-green sky, the colors of six o'clock in the evening and the time when the wolves awoke.

In one paragraph (the same that compares the wolf's walk to her father's walk) is a sequence of personification:

The pack looked to him when the wind carried strange scents or the birds cried nervously.

Winds carrying something and birds crying are both human attributes or abilities that these non-human things are given.

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The first section of the book, entitled "Amaroq the Wolf", is rich in figures of speech.

Some examples of personification in the description of the main character's life with the wolves on the vast tundra are "winds scream", "the frigid environment has sculptured life", "plants and birds pointed the way", "city...sat on a hill".  Each of these gives human attributes to things that are inanimate, or wouldn't otherwise have these qualities.

Examples of metaphor, which are comparisons between things that are not inherently alike, include "the great wolf's eyes (are) brittle yellow jewels", "the tundra was an ocean of grass on which she was circling around and around", "wolves are gentle brothers", "the pond...the tundra looking glass", and "the mitten was a trophy".

Finally, some examples of simile are "birds...like leaves in a wind", "tail like a semaphore signal", "fur...like metal", and the pup "was like water and slipped through her hands".  Similes are comparisons between two things using "like" or "as". 

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