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My Side of the Mountain

by Jean George

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Examples and types of figurative language in My Side of the Mountain


In My Side of the Mountain, examples of figurative language include similes, metaphors, and personification. Similes compare two things using "like" or "as," such as "the wind cut like a knife." Metaphors imply comparisons, like "the mountain was a fortress." Personification gives human traits to non-human things, as in "the trees whispered secrets."

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In My Side of the Mountain, what are some examples of figurative language?

You might want to consider how the narrator describes the glories of winter during his year alone in the wilderness, as he uses many examples of figurative language to describe the strange, stark beauty and the majesty of the elements as he lives through what he thought would be a "long, dark winter." Note, for example, the following quote:

Sometimes I would sit in my doorway, which became an entrance to behold--a portico of pure white snow, adorned with snowmen--and watch [the birds] with endless interest.

Note the metaphor that the narrator uses to describe his entrance, which he compares to a "portico of pure white snow" covered in snowmen. Also, note how he describes the coming of the first snowstorm that he faces:

The clouds of winter, black and fearsome. They looked as wild as the winds that were bringing them.

Note the simile that is used to describe the "clouds of winter," that are said to be as wild as the strong winds that usher them towards him. Hopefully identifying these two examples will encourage you to go back over your text and spot and comment upon other examples of figurative language in this novel. Good luck!

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What type of figurative language develops the meaning of My Side of the Mountain?

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is replete with figurative language. Much of it is used to describe the privations of life in the Catskill Mountains, where young Sam Gribley must learn to deal with harsh weather conditions, especially during wintertime.

One particularly good example of figurative language comes in the shape of the metaphor that Sam uses to describe his doorway, which he likens to "a pure white portico, adorned with snowmen." This is, as Sam says, an entrance truly to behold, and it gives us a striking image of what life is like in the wilderness at this time of year.

That Sam should use the metaphor of snowmen to describe his doorway further indicates that he actually enjoys spending winter in the Catskills. Snowmen are associated with fun, and Sam is very candid in admitting that it's "very, very nice" for him and his baby falcon, Frightful, to be out together alone in the wilderness.

Even so, the onset of winter was initially quite fearsome, and Sam expresses the awesome, sublime spectacle of winter's arrival through a powerful simile:

The clouds of winter, black and fearsome. They looked as wild as the winds that were bringing them.

Everything is wild. Mother Nature in all her terrible splendor is ready to unleash extreme weather upon the mountainous landscape. But as we saw earlier, Sam actually enjoys spending winter in the Catskills, so the appearance of the "black and fearsome" clouds heralds the arrival of a season that Sam and Frightful will find rather to their liking.

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Where are the techniques of metaphor, hyperbole, and personification used in My Side of the Mountain?

Nature is personified throughout this book and essentially becomes a character in its own right. Often metaphor and hyperbole are employed to much the same effect. Below are some examples.

I must have walked a mile into the woods until I found a stream. It was a clear athletic stream that rushed and ran and jumped and splashed.

In this first quotation, the stream is personified as "athletic," running and jumping like an excitable child. When the author personifies nature, in this example and others, she does so to reflect the mood of the narrator. It is, after all, a projection of the boy's own emotions that he imagines in the nature around him.

I must say this about that first fire. It was magic.... It cracked and snapped and smoked and filled the woods with brightness. It lighted the trees and made them warm and friendly. It stood tall and bright and held back the night.

In this second quotation, we have an example of hyperbole in the phrase "It...filled the woods with brightness." This is exaggeration because of course the light from the campfire cannot literally have illuminated the entire woods. There is also, in the final sentence, another example of personification. The fire is described as standing tall and "[holding] back the night." The fire is personified in this instance to show how the boy perceives it as a kind of guard or protector, looking after him and keeping him safe.

September blazed a trail into the mountains.

This third quotation is an example of a metaphor. The month of September does not literally set a trail of fire through the mountains, but describing its advance with this metaphor conveys the impression of the vibrant reds and oranges that the autumn brings, and also of the rapid movement of the squirrels and the chipmunks and the twittering birds.

Never, never have I seen such trees. They were giants—old, old giants. They must have begun when the world began.

In this fourth quotation, nature is again personified, this time as "old giants." This particular example of personification highlights how huge and also magical (giants usually exist, after all, in the realms of myths, legends, and fairy tales) nature seems from the perspective of the boy.

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Where are the techniques of metaphor, hyperbole, and personification used in My Side of the Mountain?

In a book this long, there are, of course, multiple instances of all of these devices.

You can find hyperbole on the very first page of the book. Sam is describing his tree and says it "must be as old as the mountain itself." Of course, this cannot possibly be true.

On the next page, there is personification when he says that his tree is no longer "crying" as much as it once was.

On page 7 (in my copy of the book), there is metaphor. Here, Sam says that the "curtain of blizzard" struck the mountains. That is metaphor because it is comparing the storm to a curtain.

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