Definition of Personification

  • Personification is a literary device where human qualities or traits are attributed to non-human entities, abstract ideas, or inanimate objects.

  • It’s a way of bringing life to lifeless entities, making descriptions more vivid and making abstract ideas easier to comprehend.

Purpose of Personification

  • The primary purpose of using personification is to give a more relatable, human face to abstract concepts, making them easier to understand.

  • It allows readers to connect with the subject on a deeper level, forming an emotional connection due to the human characteristics been applied.

  • Personification can enhance imagery and make descriptions more vivid, creating a more engaging and rich reading experience.

Examples of Personification

  • Personification can be found in phrases like “the wind whispered secrets through the trees”, “the flowers danced in the light” or “fear sneaked up on me”.

  • In these examples, the wind, trees, flowers and fear are given human attributes such as whispering secrets, dancing and sneaking up on someone.

  • Note that personification doesn’t always have to attribute physical actions to the non-human objects or ideas; it could instead assign feelings, thoughts, or attitudes, as in “the sun smiled down on the town”.

Identifying Personification

  • To identify personification, look for non-human entities, inanimate objects, or abstract ideas that are described as having human traits or behaviours.

  • Phrases or sentences where something is doing an action generally reserved for humans is a clear indicator of personification.

  • Key phrases may include “as though”, “as if”, or attributes being assinged directly through verbs, such as “the moon stared down at me”.

Analysing Personification

  • When evaluating the use of personification, consider the effect on the reader. Does the personification help the reader to better visualize or empathize with the object or concept being described?

  • Assess how well the assigned human traits fit with the overall theme or mood of the text, and how they contribute to the imagery or emotion of the piece.

  • Always consider what the writer’s intention might have been in employing personification – are they attempting to stir specific emotions, or make an abstract idea more digestible?