A whole poem can be a metaphor

metaphor

What is a metaphor? (Definition)

The stylistic device metaphor belongs to the tropics: the actual word (or a group of words) is replaced by a pictorial expression from another world of concepts. A metaphor is therefore not always clear. It has to be interpreted. Metaphors can be explained by paraphrase, but part of their effect and / or meaning can be lost.

The famous ancient Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384–322 BC) founded the concept of the in his works "Rhetoric" and "Poetics" metaphorá. Translated it means transmission (from Greek metà phérein = carry somewhere else). The classic example from Aristotle's theory is "Achilles is a lion." The attributes of a Leo, namely strength and courage, are transferred to the person Achilles in this sentence.

Unlike, for example, the alliteration or the anaphor, the metaphor has no clear characteristics. It is therefore helpful to memorize examples. With a little practice, metaphors can then be recognized more and more reliably.

  • "Clock of life"
    Here is the Clock as a device for measuring time on the course of the human Life transfer.
  • "broken heart"
    We speak of a "broken heart" when someone is seriously heartbroken. Here a damaged part of the body is used as a symbol of painful emotions; both worlds of terms flow together in this way.

How are metaphors formed?

Metaphors arise through

  • a Analogy in external form (e.g. "glow stalk" - a cigarette is similar to the stalk of a plant);
  • a similar function (e.g. "chair leg" - the piece of furniture stands on wooden sticks like humans and animals on their legs);
  • the Confluence of ideas (e.g. "Singing the waves" - the sound of the water is reminiscent of music).

Unconscious and conscious metaphors

Many metaphors have become an integral part of our everyday language over time. We use them unconsciously. The use of some such symbols is even necessary, as there are no other names for the respective item. They fill in gaps in the language. Such a word is also called dead metaphor or Catachresis (from Greek katachresis = Abuse), because there is no transfer of meaning.

  • »Bottleneck«
  • »Spine«
  • "Letterhead"
  • "Flow of speech"
  • "Table leg"
  • "Engine Hood"

The unconscious metaphors also include those images that result from frequent use faded are. Although other names could be found for them, the use of symbols has become a habit. The metaphor is thus a synonym for the other term.

  • »Kaderschmiede« (= Elite university)
  • "broken heart" (= Lovesickness)
  • "great party" (= exuberant celebration)
  • "Eagle eyes" (= very good eyesight)
  • "Hangover Breakfast" (= Meal intended to drive away the effects of alcohol consumption)
  • "War Fatigue" (= lack of will to continue to wage war)

On the other hand, there is conscious, real metaphor. It is used specifically when speaking or telling stories to achieve a certain effect. Such a transmission is absolutely new. The public is surprised by the visual expression.

  • "The European House" (from architecture)
  • "Foundation of Society" (from the construction industry / architecture)
  • "Flame of the Spirit" (from the everyday world)
  • "Meltdown in the banking system" (from atomic physics)
  • »Stream of Life« (from geography / topography)

The metaphor in epic, lyric and drama

Whether in stories, poems or in drama, metaphor as a rhetorical figure plays an important role in all forms of literature. In addition to metaphors that readers are familiar with from everyday life, transferred expressions are often created by the author. So these terms are initially unknown. The context of meaning is easy or difficult to grasp, depending on previous knowledge. If the interpretation is successful, metaphors contribute to the understanding of the text. The clear description creates the opportunity to better understand what is meant without cumbersome explanations. In particular, the emotional significance can be grasped more easily.

An easily understandable metaphor makes a text easy to read, entertaining and memorable. If, on the other hand, its meaning can only be deciphered with difficulty, a statement will be difficult to understand.

  • "Knight of the Napkins"
    Thomas Mann: "Mario and the Magician"
  • "Last homestead of feeling"
    Rainer Maria Rilke: "Exposed on the mountains of the heart"
  • »Love torch«
    Friedrich Schiller: »Maria Stuart«

The metaphor in poetry and modernity

Metaphors increase the Poetics of Textsby drawing pictures with words. As a result, they are especially indispensable for poetry. Just think about it of spring's "blue ribbon" with Eduard Mörike. In a poem analysis, the interpretation of metaphors always plays an important role. Poetic metaphors are also that "Brightly cleaned sky" or that "Sea of ​​Tears".

  • "The angel who covers himself in you"
    (Angel is metaphorically for the beloved)
    Eduard Möricke: "To my beloved"
  • “A rose-colored spring weather
    Lay on the lovely face "
    (Happiness and love, being in love are reflected on her face)
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "Welcome and Farewell"

Modern authors often use metaphors in such a way that they are difficult or impossible to decipher. The incomprehensible picture forces you to pause while reading. The meaning does not want to open up. Then the text environment in which the metaphor is located is often more important than the meaning of the expression transferred.

The metaphor in politics and advertising

Also in the political rhetoric metaphors are often used. They make speeches memorable and interesting and create images in the minds of the audience. In view of the financial crisis, for example, politicians speak of the »tide change«. By creating a visual image, the audience can more easily grasp a complicated issue or process.

Examples from politics
  • "The climate in the coalition negotiations was good. " (from meteorology)
  • “Scholz wants that course of his predecessor. " (from seafaring)
  • "The Switches for a change are provided. " (out of circulation)

In the advertising Metaphors are indispensable because they convey emotions particularly well. This is helpful in encouraging consumers to buy. In addition, the viewer and potential customer memorize memorable images and allegorical formulations better than a linguistic statement.

Examples from advertising
  • “Red Bull gives wings(Energy drink)
  • “The yellow one Angel(ADAC)
  • “On these stones you can build.« (Schwäbisch Hall)

Differentiation from other stylistic devices

Metaphor and comparison

A metaphor can be recognized by the fact that it is used without further explanation or comparison words. It speaks for itself, and the reader or listener has to develop the relationship between the two worlds of terms for himself. At a comparison on the other hand, this connection is represented by words, often by "how".

Examples of comparison
  • “The young woman is quick how a deer."
  • "He rides how the wind."
  • “The air is soft how Silk."

Metaphor and metonymy

A metaphor transfers the actual term into a foreign area of ​​meaning. Originally there was no connection between the two worlds of terms: metaphor for in love = float on clouds. In the metonymy on the other hand, one word stands for a neighboring other: The leather hit the post; Leather = the football. (This is the material for the object.)

More examples of a metonymy
  • "Berlin is abolishing the property tax." (Berlin = the federal government)
  • "Goethe is on the top left of the shelf." (Goethe = the works or books of the poet)

Metaphors from different areas

  • »Wipfelmeer«
  • "creative head"
  • »Wall of Silence«
  • "Fist in the neck" (inevitable threat)
  • "Power of Darkness" (forces of evil)
  • "Desert ship" (picture for a camel)
  • "Ugly duckling" (expression for a not very attractive person)
  • "See something through rose-colored glasses" (judge something too positively)

further reading

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have developed a recognized metaphor theory. In their work they show that the meaning of metaphors goes far beyond literature and other well-known contexts. In particular, the authors examine the phenomenon of metaphors in common parlance. They explain in an understandable way how our language, our thinking and thus our entire lives are influenced by metaphors.

Page published on 07/14/2014. Last updated on April 21, 2021.