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Figurative language is descriptive language not meant to be taken literally. An example is a simile, where two unlike things are compared using comparison words such as “like” and a metaphor, which is a comparison saying that one thing is something else. A symbol stands for something, and means more than it literally means. Let’s look at the first line for some examples:
When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
In this line, “the world beats dead/like a slackened drum” is a simile. The world is being compared to a drum, and it is a simile because it uses the word “like” here.
As the poem continues, here is another example:
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me
This is an example of personification, which is figurative language where something not alive is given human-like qualities. Here, the streets are described as human. Streets are “coming” and “wedge” but streets cannot actually move or create real separation.
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
This is an example of a metaphor, since lamps are not literally pricking the eye. It is also imagery, which is when something is described using one of the five senses. In this case, the visual nature of the lamplight is being described.
Symbolism is when something stands for something else. In this poem, the taxi is a symbol of separation. The speaker interprets the taxi as a destructive force, removing her loved one.
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