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...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 974 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 4, 2020
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