The following sentence is an example of what type of figurative language?When describing candles the narrator says, "At first they... all seemed white slender angels who would save me".

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coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I'm not sure this line from the short story of 'The Pit and the Pendulum' by Edgar Allen Poe is figurative language at all in that the narrator is simply 'telling it like it is' - he is simply sharing exactly what he saw,moment by moment as he came around from a faint, with us. He saw candlesticks - then, pehaps a similie where he says 'seemed,' although the word 'like' or 'as' is not present. If he had called them angels from the start, that would have been more like a metaphor. It could be that in his confused muddled dream-like state he thought they actually were angels - then recounted what he thought at the time about them, back to us  as he is telling the tale in retrospect. Either way, it is a very beautiful description as the 'angels' have a certain pathos about them - the narrator's religion did not save him or reward him for his loyalty at this point.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I have edited your quote a bit because I am assuming these are "angel," and not "angels."  This is a clear example of personification, which means the writer is acting as though an inanimate object has some human or "person" trait.  You might want to practice this literary device to better understand and remember it.  Try to create some examples for yourself, and write them down.  Every time you learn about a new literary device, making up some examples really helps to fix the idea in your mind.  Here are some examples I have just created:

The sun smiled down on the crowd below.

The hail attacked the golfers.

The sunflowers all nodded their heads in the same direction.

The tiny waves at the shore played with the young children.

Notice that all of these are from nature, and suggest that certain elements of nature can act like a person. 

I hope this helps you.  Good luck!

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In my opinion, the line you cite is an example of simile.  Some might say it is metaphor, but I think it is simile.

In both types of figurative language, you use one thing to describe something else.  In this case, the narrator is using angels as a point of reference to help us understand what the candles looked like.

In a simile, the writer compares things explicitly, using words like "as" or "like."  In this case, he doesn't use either of these words, but the word "seemed" plays the same role.  If it were metaphor, he'd just say "At first, they were angels..."

I guess you could also say this is personification in that the candles are given the ability to have "an aspect of charity" -- to look charitable, which of course inanimate objects can't do.

readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

That is a good question. The sentence is an example of a metaphor or simile. The point is fairly simple and straightforward. An object, a candle, is being described in a figurative way. To put it even more concretely, a candle is not an angel. So, to describe one as an angel is a use of metaphor. Also because the sentence says that the candle "will save me," the author also gives human abilities to the candle, namely, the ability to save. This device is called personification. So, there are at least two literary devices employed in the description of the candle.

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