How is figurative language used in "The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde?

In "The Selfish Giant," Oscar Wilde makes extensive use of personification, and in particular the variety of personification known as "the pathetic fallacy," which attributes human feelings to natural objects. The effect of this is to make flowers, seasons, frost, snow, and hail reflect and reinforce his moral vision.

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In "The Selfish Giant," Oscar Wilde begins by using figurative language to emphasize the beauty of of the garden, where flowers stand out of the grass "like stars" in the sky. These flowers are then personified when one of them begins to bloom, sees there are no children in the garden, and goes back to sleep. Wilde therefore makes literal within the confines of the story the figure of speech which his mentor, John Ruskin, called "the pathetic fallacy," the attribution of human emotions to natural objects and forces. This variety of personification continues throughout the story, as Wilde attributes human motives to the snow, the frost, the hail, and the seasons. Later, one of the trees in the garden asks a little boy to climb up into his branches as the giant approaches.

The effect of all this personification, almost all of which takes the form of the pathetic fallacy, is to present nature as participating in Wilde's moral vision. The Selfish Giant is initially a villainous figure, but even he does not like his garden to be a perpetual wasteland of Frost, Snow, and Hail. The effect of his selfishness is brought home to him by these naturally occurring villains acting as he does. Similarly, the beauty of the flowers, and the warmth of the Spring and Summer are personified to express the goodness and innocence of the children. The Giant himself reinforces this point when he says:

I have many beautiful flowers … but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.

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Figurative language moves away from literal language to add extra meaning, color, or dimension to a text.

Wilde uses a good deal of figurative language in this children's story.

Wilde is best known as a humorist, and he can't resist tossing a funny line into his story. Here, he creates humor through the use of oxymoron. An oxymoron occurs when two opposing words or ideas are put together. In the following sentence, Wilde puts together the idea of talking for a long period of time, seven years, with the opposing idea that the giant has little to say:

"After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited . . ."

Wilde also uses juxtaposition in his description of the beautiful, inviting garden with its "delicate" pink and pearl flowers. He juxtaposes that against the road, the only other place the children have to play. In contrast to the garden, the road is dusty and filled with "hard stones."

Wilde frequently uses metaphor, a form of comparison that does not use "like" or "as." For example, Snow "covered up the grass with her great white cloak." In this example, the snow that falls on the ground is compared to a white cloak.

The story makes ample use of personification, which is assigning human attributes to inanimate or non-human items: Snow, for example, is personified as a person. So is the North Wind. He is depicted as wearing gray and as a mischievous, high energy fellow. Through "rattling," he breaks most of the castle roof's slates, and he runs round and round.

The story uses symbolism to show that without children playing in it, the garden is dead. Here lacking children to bring life, spring, which symbolizes life, doesn't come to the garden. Only when the children return does spring reappear.

At the end of the story, we realizes that Wilde has used Christian allegory, or hidden meaning, when the little boy who wanted to be put in the tree turns out to be Jesus, and the tree turns out to be the cross.

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Oscar Wilde employs lots of figurative language to tell his fairy tale "The Selfish Giant." The second paragraph of the short story describes the garden in detail using simile, such as by saying, "flowers like stars," and alliteration, shown by saying, "large, lovely garden with soft green grass." The giant's declaration that "My own garden is my own garden" is an example of a tautology, a figure of speech in which something is compared to or defined as itself. The story also employs a generous helping of symbolism, most noticeably in the fact that while spring comes to the rest of the world, the giant's garden remains in winter as a physical representation of his selfishness for not allowing the children to continue to play in the flowers. Finally, the story is, like many fairy tales, chock full of personification. Each of the seasons are characters in the story as are Frost, Hail, Snow, and the North Wind. Throughout the story various flowers and trees are also shown to think and make decisions just like humans would.

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The fairy tale "The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde has a lot of figurative language and figures of speech as it often occurs in this genre.

When the giant repeatedly says "My own garden is my own garden", is an example of anaphora, which is the repetition of a phrase or word for a specific purpose. Sure he does not use it throughout the story, but the phrase is repeated.

In the description of the garden you find many similes such as flowers like stars, and other comparisons.

Personification is also found as Spring and the seasons, the birds, and many things of nature decidedly stopped being in the Selfish Giant's garden because of the lack of children and "forgot" that garden altogether.

You could say there is synecdoche in the phrase "children are the most beautiful flowers of them all", which arguably is also a personification, and there is a lot of metaphors in both the meaning of the selfish giant (representing opression, overpower), and the redemption by the child who kissed him and took him to Paradise. The white blossoms are also representative of purity.

Hope this helps a bit.

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