Guide to Literary Terms

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Is there a literary term in which animals and humans are compared and made equal i.e. treated the same? 

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The term used when animals take on human characteristics is anthropomorphism and the technique is widely used throughout literature. It is not unusual to use animals in this way when the issue is controversial and the writer needs to find some way of getting his message across.

Animalshave stood as allegorical figures to represent human nature and as a rich body of metaphors for the inanimate as well as the animate.

And sometimes they have been allowed to play their own parts.

Animal Farm for example is a classic example of anthropomorphism. It is a stinging and almost personal attack on communism- more especially the Russian Revolution and is actually a criticism of any form of dictatorship. It can however be read without any historical background as the animals are used to try and simplify the otherwise complicated political issues.

Mark Twain uses it in A Dog's Tale deliberately to highlight man's mistreatment of animals.

Watership Down is also a classic example. Rabbits are used to illustrate the hero’s journey. They have ideals, find religion and give a point of view that otherwise might be overlooked.

Even Walt Disney used it to great success. Mickey Mouse and all his friends are obvious examples and these cartoon characters experience all the trials and tribulations of life as if they were human.

One of the disadvantages of using animals to express human issues and emotions is that the animal quality may be lost. How traumatised is a young child to see his dear little kitty catch and devour the little bird he has been putting out seed for? It is important not to overlook the basic instincts of animals.


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