Which literary device -- paradox or metaphor -- is used in the following quotation from Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind"? Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing . . .  

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In these lines, we see an example of apostrophe and simile (and, thus, metaphor—I'll explain in a moment). The speaker addresses the west wind directly, speaking to it and calling it "Thou," and this makes the poem an example of apostrophe, when someone addresses something or someone that cannot respond as though it or they could. Then, the speaker uses a simile to compare the dead leaves which are moved by the blowing wind to ghosts which are trying to escape from someone who, apparently, has some kind of power of them. A simile is a comparison of two unalike things—here, leaves and ghosts —using the words like or as. It is like a metaphor in that a metaphor is also a comparison of two unalike things, but a metaphor says that one thing is another, not that it is like another. It is purely figurative, and, because of this, metaphors tend to be somewhat stronger than similes. However, a simile is actually classified as a type of metaphor—though the term "simile" is more specific here—so if your only two choices are metaphor or paradox, then go with metaphor.

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The most obvious literary device used in lines 2-3 of Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" is asimile-- that is, a comparison using the words "like" or "as." The third word of line 3 clearly signals the presence of a simile:

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing . . .

One might also argue, however, that the idea of "ghosts" fleeing from an enchanter is also paradoxical. We normally think of ghosts as causing fright and provoking flight. Here, however, the ghosts themselves seem frightened.  Further evidence of paradox may be found in the idea that the ghosts are fleeing an "enchanter." The word "enchanter" often has highly positive connotations. The enchanter here, however, is not only frightening but is sofrightening that even ghosts flee from its presence.

The phrase "unseen presence" might also, initially, seem paradoxical (how can something that is present remain unseen?). Yet this paradox is only apparent, since the presence being described here is the presence of the wind, which can be felt but not viewed.

 

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