What are figurative devices and why are they use in poetry?

Expert Answers
marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Figurative devices are certain words or phrases that add essence and clarity to poems and essays, and help paint a mental picture in the mind of the reader. The most common figurative devices are the metaphor and the simile.

Metaphor:  A figurative device that uses one object or idea to replace another object or idea in such a way that a striking mental picture is formed. Usually the two objects are unrelated. Many analogies and fables are actually metaphors.

Examples of metaphors:

The boy was up to his neck in homework. An immediate picture is formed of a boy completely surrounded by homework with just his head sticking out. 

My mother whipped the house into shape. Mother didn't literally use a whip to clean the house, but the mental picture of her cracking a whip to get it done is classic.

After I lost my job, I drank the dregs of the bitter cup. The grounds that are left in the bottom of a mug of coffee are extremely bitter. The author portrays great depression and misery, perhaps a little bitterness, by comparing his misfortune to the bottom of a coffee cup.

Simile:  A figurative device that compares two completely unlike words using the words "like" and "as."  A simile is more exact than a metaphor because the intended meaning is clearer.

Examples of similes:

The licorice is as black as tar.  Licorice is much better tasting than tar, but the similarity of the deep black color is unquestionable.

My brother is as sharp as a tack.  Usually meant to mean a person who is incredibly intelligent, the comparison to a short little nail that hurts dreadfully if you step on it conveys a clear message.

Sister Naomi is like an angel.  Everybody knows an angel is pure and innocent, so comparing the nun to an angel means she is a very good person.

Good prose and poetry uses figurative language in such a way that the reader can close their eyes and picture what is happening. Their imaginations are stimulated and the piece they are reading comes alive in their mind and in their senses.

mysticgirl | Student

this is literary devices:

metaphor, simile, euphamism, hyperbole, litotes, allusion, symbolism.