The Jungle Book contains many examples of figurative language from the very first page, in both the prose and the songs. In order to spot figurative language, a reader should ask “Is this really, literally true?” This will identify types of figurative language such as similes, metaphors, and hyperbole.
Similes are comparisons between two different things, usually using “like” or “as.” An example is the description of Mother Wolf’s eyes when she confronts Shere Khan in order to protect Mowgli: “Mother Wolf shook herself clear of the cubs and sprang forward, her eyes like two green moons in the darkness, facing the blazing eyes of Shere Khan” (page 8). Her eyes are not literally moons, and they do not orbit her head like the moon orbits the Earth, but this description creates a vivid image of Mother Wolf’s eyes, large and round with anger.
Metaphors are similar to similes, but do not use “like” or “as.” An example from “The Song of Mowgli” is when he sings “I am two Mowglis” (page 87). Literally, he is only one Mowgli. However, he says this to express an inner conflict. Part of him feels drawn to the jungle, and the other part of him feels drawn to human society. He is confused, and these two desires seem like two different Mowglis living inside him.
Hyperbole: This is when exaggeration is used to make a point, as when Tabaqui the jackal says “For such a mean person such as myself, a dry bone is a good feast” (page 3). A dry bone is not really a good feast for anyone, but Tabaqui means to show that he is so poor and needy that he can find sustenance from food others find worthless.
There are also other types of figurative language, such as onomatopoeia
, when a word is written to represent a sound, as when Father Wolf wakes up from his sleep. “'Augrh!’ said Father Wolf. ‘It is time to hunt again’” (page 2). The word “Augrh” is not a real English word, but is meant to sound like a wolf yawning as he wakes and stretches.
There are many other examples of figurative language. To find it, simply look for language that isn’t literally true or is very colorful!