How would you rank Simile, Metaphor, Personification and Apostrophe in order of emotional effectiveness?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a tough question because of several elements.  The first is the reader's own perception of emotional effectiveness and this is based on their own experience with reading or writing in these examples of figurative language.  The second might be the reader's own perception of familiarity with each style.  I would say that the other level of difficulty here is how does one quantify or rank based on emotional effectiveness?  Where is the rubric to gauge emotional affect?  It is difficult because emotions cannot be quantified and experiences cannot be graded against other experiences.  I think that one could make a valid argument that a personification, such as what is used by Sandburg in "Grass" or Hughes in "April Rain Song," could have as much emotional connection as the metaphors used in "She Walks in Beauty."  In the final analysis, I think that the best way to gauge emotional effectiveness of these devices would be to find poems in which they are used and then examine how the author used it and why they chose that particular literary device to convey their meaning.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am sure that you will get many opinions, because there is no right answer and much of the answer will depend on the skill of the writer and the intended audience. Here is my ranking and rationale.

I think that apostrophe is the most effective in emotional effectiveness, because it is a literal "turning away" from the narrative and breaks the dramatic tension and addresses the audience in a direct way. This can jolt the audience or reader and when done well can be very emotional.

Personification would be my next guess, but again it must be done well. Personification can have the effect of shocking the reader by giving another perspective.

Finally, I think similes and metaphors come next. However, I do not want to give the impression that these are not good at eliciting emotions.  They can be great, but, in my opinion, they are more heady. And they require more thought. So, the emotion payback may be delayed.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a pretty hard question.  The answer depends a great deal on how well each of these is done in a given situation.  But in general, I think I would rank these like this:

  1. Personification
  2. Apostrophe
  3. Metaphor
  4. Simile

I think the first two are the most effective because they give inanimate objects the ability to think and feel and such just like people do.  Because they are given these abilities, we can more easily comprehend or feel what the writer is trying to say -- we can relate the object's "feeling" to what we know of that feeling in our own lives.

Metaphor is more effective than simile, in my opinion, because it forces more thought.  We are not just told "my love is like a..."  Instead, we are given a metaphor and left to figure out for ourselves what it means.

James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Every time I read this question, I have a hard time deciding how to rank all four things on one scale. Simile and metaphor are similar enough to compare, as are personification and apostrophe, but I'm not sure how to rank all four at once.

I do think, in any case, that a simile is usually weaker than a metaphor; the connection of the two unlike things is made obvious (through the use of "like" or "as"). Similarly, I have personal preference for personification over apostrophe. Apostrophe seems to me a very artificial and contrived, maybe because it's brief and usually begins with "Oh, ..." and ends in an exclamation point! Personification is used all over the place and can be very effective.

EDIT: I was slowly typing my answer while the first poster answered. I agree with those rankings.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A very intriguing question....Post #5 has astute remarks about the difficulty of this question; certainly it does come to the reader.  Yet....does it not seem that people recall so often striking metaphors?  Are they, then, more emotionally effective? Or maybe they just make better titles?

The Winter of Our Discontent

The Sound and the Fury

The best laid plans of Mice and Men

1. metaphor    2.  simile  3. personification  4.  apostrophe

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would rank personification first because it creates characterisics for inanimate objects, and consequently makes sometimes abstract ideas more concrete and visual.

Apostrophe I would rank second because it creates a more powerful communication between speaker and audience almost drawing the audience into the speaker's thoughts.

Metaphor and Simile I would rank third only in that they are perhaps overused or not original enough in some works.

kostaglatov | Student

Each of these devices have been used over the years by many writers with varying degrees of artistic success, so ranking them is a bit silly. But I will try to be of some help. Since Homer is best in most things, i will use Homer in addressing your question. We know Homer did not write these poems, and that they are part of an oral tradition over many years, performed by many bards . The  emotional effectiveness in the fllowing simile in Homer , derives from the  shear beauty of the language . And its use enables the poet to place his  personal stamp on a traditonal work,. But it is far more complex than can be expained or defined by the simple use of like or as. An action occurs with A. A is then compared to B which is described in detail, and then A is described.. There is very little use of metaphor in Homer, perhaps because he found it less effective than simile. Personification is  an attempt by the Greek mind, to explain aspects of human reality,  Shame , Justice, Injustice were all in the spere and control of lesser gods. Finally, apostophe the rarest of the four devices, and  which Homer uses only a few times in both epics,  he reserves  for characters of the most noble and extrordinary nature. The three characters he apostrophizes , he honors by entering into the action and addessing them personally.

epollock | Student

I would rank them in this order

1) Simile

2) Metaphor

3) Personification

4) Apostrophe

with one being the most emotional effectiveness. Simile is extremely explicit and can have more impact.Mmetaphor is less explicit as you go down the list and apostrophe can be as short as "Oh West Wind!" which has no impact at all.

giorgiana1976 | Student

The apostrophe is the most powerful figure of speech used to express a very strong emotion. It is generally preceded by exclamations by the author opens communication with a person or idea.

 Metaphors and simile is the comparison modes.

Simile compares things that despite similarities present significant differences and emphasize impression created. If explicit meanings are needed, the simile is more powerfull than metaphor.

Metaphor is a figure of speech which passes from the usual meaning of a word to another meaning, through a implied comparison. The process of realization of the metaphor is putting the identity sign between two different objects (things, beings, people) by their name, based on analogies".

Metaphor is a figure of speech which is essential, because it is the basis of other figures such as personification, allegory,  epithet, etc. The personification is a figure of speech that is assigning to an object or idea, human qualities.

So,making a classification of figures of speech above, the order would be as follows: apostrophe, simile, metaphor, personification.