Guide to Literary Terms

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What is personification, imagery, and onomatopoeia?

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Personification, imagery, and onomatopoeia are literary techniques that are employed in both prose and verse.

Personification is the assignment of living qualities, such as language, movement, or emotion, to something inanimate. An example is found in William Wordsworth's poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" where the speaker describes daffodils "dancing in the breeze." Personification can create a dramatic or comedic effect.

Imagery is the creation of something visual solely through the use of words. T.S. Eliot's poem "Preludes" calls to mind a scene of empty streets as people head home at day's end:

The winter evening settles down/With smell of steaks in passageways./Six o'clock./The burnt-out ends of smoky days./And now a gusty shower wraps/The grimy scraps/Of withered leaves about your feet/And newspapers from vacant lots

Onomatopoeia is the use of words that evoke the sound of what they are describing. Examples include "buzz" and "rattle" when the z's and t's are clearly enunciated, or the word "murmur" which requires bringing together the lips to create the "m" sound.

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This is a good question. Personification is when you give life like qualities to non-living things. So, if you say that the wall of a house can hear, this would be an example of personification. Another example would be if you say that the sun, moon and stars are smiling down on someone.

Imagery is when a piece of literature conjures up and uses images to make a point, usually a comparison. For example, you can say something like the candle flickered in the dark as a bird flutters her wings. The imagery of the bird flapping her wing helps with the flickering of the candle.

Onomatopoeia is when a word imitate the sources of the sound. Here are some examples: gush and splash.

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