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.