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Lesson Three: Figuring Out Figurative Language


Figures of speech are broadly defined as a way of saying one thing in terms of something else. An overeager funeral director might, for example, be described as a vulture. Although figures of speech are indirect, they are designed to clarify, not obscure, our understanding of what they describe. Poets often use them in order to capture the readers interest and imagination. Poetic termsFigurative Language! Prepare those flash cardstest coming soon . . . 19 Symbolism: the use of one object to represent or stand for a greater or deeper idea Example: a diamond ring stands for a pledge of eternal, powerful love 20 Metaphor: the direct comparison of two unlike objects in order to emphasize the trait or quality they share in common Example: My sister is a witch 21 Simile: a metaphor using like or as Example: My sister is as crabby as a witch 22 Conceit: an extended metaphor that applies to an entire poem or a large section of it Example: poem 341 employs a conceit of physical hardness standing for emotional numbness 23 Metonymy: referencing something by naming one of its attributes or something associated with it Example: The suits filed into the board room. 24 Synecdoche: referencing something by a part or piece of it, or referencing a piece of something by the whole Example: A parade of sticky fingers left the craft room. The farmer owned 300 head of cattle. 25 Personification: giving humanlike qualities to nonhuman creatures or objects Example: The chair groaned in agony as he sat down 26 Apostrophe: an address either to someone who is absent and therefore cannot hear the speaker or to something nonhuman that cannot comprehend. Example: Oh, Homework! Why do you hate me so? 27 Synaesthesia: the description of one sensory experience in terms of another Example: My voice paled in the darkness. (pale is a visual color, but voice is a sound) 28 Motif: any recurring image, idea, or symbol in a literary work; something must be repeated at least 3 times in order to be considered a motif. Other terms you need to keep in mind: 29 Tone: the authors attitude toward the subject being written about: conveyed through word choice and manner of discussion 30 Mood: the emotional response that a piece of literature evokes in a reader

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Activity: Read through the following poem by Emily Dickinson and look for examples of the aforementioned figures of speech. Highlight or underline each example with a different color and identify what it is an example of.
341 1. After a great pain, a formal feeling comes 2. The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs 3. The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore, 4. And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

5. The Feet, mechanical, go round 6. Of Ground, or Air, or Ought1 7. A Wooden way 8. Regardless grown, 9. A Quartz contentment, like a stone

10 This is the Hour of Lead 11. Remembered, if outlived, 12. As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow 13. FirstChillthen Stuporthen letting go

Ahh, but finding the devices is not enough! Reading poetry is not a scavenger huntit is an investigation. How do you analyze an example of figurative language? Check out the process on the next page. . .

MODEL: Unpacking the figures of speech in Dickinsons poem #341


1

Nothing, or anything

_____________________________________ Poetry, 6 Figuring Out Figurative Language 1. Identify the type of device: ____ synecdoche __ 2. Quote the line(s) from the poem that contains the device and cite the authors last name and line number(s) in parentheses: ______ The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs (Dickinson 2) ______ 3. What is being compared to what? ________People at a funeral__________ A)Actual thing ______Nerves__________ B) the thing it is described as within the poemuse the exact word(s) 4. Generate at least 4 connotations (feelings or associationsthese could be single words or phrases) that you have when you think of the literal meaning of words that the poet uses in the poetic device: People at a funeral Nerves ___mourners _____________ ____feelings_________________ _____ loved ones _________ _____electrical wires _____crying_____________ ___ tempers ________________ ______ devastated__________ _____emotions ______________ 5. What do #3A and #3B have in common? How are they similar? People at a funeral are very emotional because they obviously cared a great deal for the deceased (or they wouldnt be at the funeral). Nerves are feelings or emotions, so it makes sense that these people would be defined by their emotions. Funerals are emotional, and the people who demonstrate this are the guests. 6. Which connotations from #4 seem most relevant to #3A? How? The feelings and emotions are most relevant because that is about sadness and grief, which the guests would be experiencing. 7. Examine the relationship between your connotations and the subject the poetic device represents. How do these work together? Why does the poet describe this subject in this way? How does it make you view the subject? What is she trying to make you see about the subject what aspects or feelings are being triggered? When I think of nerves, I associate it with feelings, tempers, and emotions. Nerves in our bodies are what allow us to feel things. The poet is using synecdoche to describe the mourners by their nerves, which seems to emphasize how feelings seem to define people at times of trauma. I think that she does this because she wants readers to see that at these emotional times, the people themselves almost disappear, as their feelings take precedence. People feel the sadness they are experiencing, and they focus upon this, rather than seeing themselves or each other as individuals.

_____________________________________ Poetry, 6 Below are the step 7s of other examples of figurative language from poem 341 explained. As you get better at generating connotations and figuring out how they relate to or connect with the poems, you will find yourself able to jump right to step 7. The stiff Heart questions (Dickinson 3)
When I think of mourners, I associate them with being sad and heart-broken. The poet uses synecdoche to refer to them by their stiff Heart, which seems to emphasize the formal emotions we feel when our loved ones die. I think she does this because in times of ceremony like a funeral or wake, we must enclose or control our emotions and present a composed face to the public. As well, describing the heart as stiff metaphorically stands for how the speakers feelings are rigid and formal. Her feelings are frozen, in a way, and inflexible, for if she relaxes them she may break down in tears and grief.

The Feet, mechanical, go round (Dickinson 5)


When I think of life after a loved ones death, I associate it with being on auto-pilot. The poet uses synecdoche to refer to mourners by their feet, which seems to emphasize the manner in which they must continue to go through their daily lives and actions while recovering from the loss of a loved onemechanically. I think she does this because she wants readers to see that grief emotionally paralyzes us so that we are unable to think or feel; we just have to keep moving. As well, this line can describe the procession to the graveone that is unaccompanied by speech or normal conversation. The silence imposed upon this type of trip makes everything seem artificial and mechanical.

A Wooden way (Dickinson 7)


When I think of a funeral, I think of the burial. The poet uses symbolism with the wooden way to evoke thoughts of a coffin. I think she does this to remind the living of the inevitable descent of the coffin into the groundthe way that awaits us all. As well, however, Wooden can continue the motif of stiffness or hardness to reflect the confined emotions and suppressed grief that mourners try to hide from the public.

A Quartz contentment, like a stone (Dickinson 9)


When I think of suppressed emotions, I think of a rock-hard faade, for we must wear a kind of stony expression in order to mask our true feelings. The poet uses symbolism with A Quartz contentment to show how this fake happiness is just a shell that we maintain in order to survive the deaths of others. I think she also does this to make readers think of the tombstones themselves. Quartz makes me think of the hard white rock that is used for tombstonesit is

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durable, but also a bright face that showcases writing clearly. Quartz looks kind of white and pretty, but is very hard, very common, and very worthlesslike our grief over death. We all feel it, and though it achieves nothing, it protects us from our own vulnerabilities and frail emotions.

This is the Hour of Lead (Dickinson 10)


When I think of confronting death, I think of it with a heavy heart or a sinking feeling. The poet uses a metaphor with the Hour of Lead in order to compare the emotional confrontation with a heavy metal. I think she does this to emphasize that funerals are like the hour of reckoning, in which we must face death and say our goodbyes. Lead is a very heavy metal, so it conveys the heavy, sinking feeling we get as we grieve, and it conveys the thoughts of sinking or descending into the ground.

As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow


FirstChillthen Stuporthen letting go (Dickinson 12-13) When I think of confronting death, I also think of coldness and sadness. The poet uses a simile to compare the mourners to freezing persons in order to emphasize how we deal with death. I think she does this to show readers how these emotions, or the snow, first make us cold and brings us pain and discomfort, but then we lose feeling and kind of go numb, before we are finally able to let go. We recollect the Snow which means that we are distanced from it and can only relive it through shades of memoryperhaps snow then becomes that moment in which we bid that person goodbye. Moreover, winter is a universal symbol for death, as it is the season when all deciduous trees lose their leaves and are covered in a coating of cold white snow. It is the end of the year, and the end of the cycle for nature, only to await rebirth and rejuvenation in the spring. Therefore, these two lines may symbolize how Freezing or dying people let go of their grip on life and the world; the speaker advises us, in a way, to be like those loved ones we losewe must go through the pain of the cold, then we feel the shock as we try to cope with it, and finally, we must let go and move on.

This should help clarify how poem 341 achieves its meaning. However, now, you have to go through the whole process. Read through poems 235 and 435 again. Pick the one that appeals to you most. Underline and label the figurative language devices. Then, select two different examples, and for each, fill out a FOFL worksheet. Always write your step 7s on lined paper (double-spaced, blue/black ink). Your step 7s for the two devices may be written on the same paper.

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235 There's a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons That oppresses, like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes Heavenly Hurt, it gives us We can find no scar, But internal difference, Where the Meanings, are None may teach it Any 'Tis the Seal Despair An imperial affliction Sent us of the air When it comes, the Landscape listens Shadows hold their breath When it goes, 'tis like the Distance On the look of Death

435 Much Madness is divinest Sense To a discerning Eye Much Sensethe starkest Madness Tis the Majority In this, as All, prevail Assentand you are sane Demuryoure straightway dangerous And handled with a Chain

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Figuring Out Figurative Language

Poem: ____________________

Go through this process each time you find a poetic device in order to explain the effects it creates for you as a reader. Please use the sentence tags provided in #7 for nowwe will break from these and allow more of your personal style to emerge once you have mastered this process a little better!

1. Identify the type of device: _____________________________________ 2. Quote the line(s) from the poem that contains the device and cite the authors last name and line number(s) in parentheses: ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ 3. What is being compared to what? ___________________________ A) Actual thing __________________________ B) the thing it is described as or with in the poemuse the exact word(s)

4. What do #3A and #3B have in common? How are they similar? ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ 5. Generate at least 4 connotations (feelings or associationsthese could be single words or phrases) that you have when you think of #3A and #3B: ___________________________ __________________________ ___________________________ __________________________ ___________________________ __________________________ ___________________________ __________________________ A B 6. Which connotations from #5 seem most relevant to #3A? How? ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ 7. Examine the relationship between your connotations and the subject the poetic device represents. How do these work together? Why does the poet describe this subject in this way? How does it make you view the subject? What is she trying to make you see about the subjectwhat aspects or feelings are being triggered? Write out step 7 on lined paperinclude the writing tags. When I think of ___ (# 3B) ____, I associate it with ___ (# 5B) ____________________ _____________________________________________________________________. The poet is using __(# 1) ____ to describe _______(# 3A) _______________, which seems to emphasize ___(# 4 and #5) ______________________________________. I think that she does this because she wants readers to see _____( # 5 and #6) ______ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________ Poetry, 6 ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ Figuring Out Figurative Language Poem: ____________________

Go through this process each time you find a poetic device in order to explain the effects it creates for you as a reader. Please use the sentence tags provided in #7 for nowwe will break from these and allow more of your personal style to emerge once you have mastered this process a little better!

1. Identify the type of device: _____________________________________ 2. Quote the line(s) from the poem that contains the device and cite the authors last name and line number(s) in parentheses: ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ 3. What is being compared to what? ___________________________ A) Actual thing __________________________ B) the thing it is described as or with in the poemuse the exact word(s)

4. What do #3A and #3B have in common? How are they similar? ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ 5. Generate at least 4 connotations (feelings or associationsthese could be single words or phrases) that you have when you think of #3A and #3B: ___________________________ __________________________ ___________________________ __________________________ ___________________________ __________________________ ___________________________ __________________________ A B 6. Which connotations from #5 seem most relevant to #3A? How? ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ 7. Examine the relationship between your connotations and the subject the poetic device represents. How do these work together? Why does the poet describe this subject in this way? How does it make you view the subject? What is she trying to make you see about the subjectwhat aspects or feelings are being triggered? Write out step 7 on lined paperinclude the writing tags. When I think of ___ (# 3B) ____, I associate it with ___ (# 5B) ____________________ _____________________________________________________________________. The poet is using __(# 1) ____ to describe _______(# 3A) _______________, which seems to emphasize ___(# 4 and #5) ______________________________________. I think that she does this because she wants readers to see _____( # 5 and #6) ______ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________

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