The Purpose of the Literary Tool of Personification
As it is generally known, “personification (impersonation or incarnation) is the act of attributing human qualities to an animal, object or abstraction; the act of personifying” (Personification, n.d.). The gist of personification finds its description in the fact that inanimate objects and phenomena acquire human characteristics, properties, and qualities, that is they are able to speak, feel, and think. Being a special kind of metaphor, personification is considered to be a very common stylistic device in folk poetry and literature of all nations. Fairy tales and fables of every folk are full of different kinds of impersonation. Incarnation, as the phenomenon of style, has a place in those cases where it is used as an allegory, that is, the image of the object, which converts it stylistically.
The best way to show the use of impersonation is to give an example. “If an author says the grasses in a field are dancing in the wind, for example, this is an example of personifying the plants. The grasses are clearly not dancing, they are simply moving in response to the wind currents, but saying they are dancing evokes an image of nature that is easier to picture and relate to” (Why do writers use personification, n.d).
The essence of impersonation as a special artistic phenomenon is lying in formation of an idiosyncratic concept that combines attributes of the object or animal and man. This concept reflects the special artistic and poetic “reality” created by the imagination. Personification is based on the interaction of objective and subjective perception plans of the same phenomenon. In spite of the fact that people have always been connected with nature and worship its gifts, they nevertheless understood that they depended on it. And consequently, being caught in this dependence on natural phenomena, humanity tried to subdue it mentally, poetically, and be closer to it spiritually. All folk metaphors and ways of using impersonation are based on human desire to tame the phenomenon of natural elements.
According to literary critic and folklorist Bazanov V.G. (The role of personification in Esenin’s lyric, n.d.), “if the poet turns to inanimate nature, he thereby animates it, humanizes, considering that it is able at least to understand him.”
Here is one more interesting example which shows that nature is alive according to poets’ writings: “When well-appareled April on the heel of limping winter treads” (Romeo and Juliet, 1597). In this case, Shakespeare gives to april and winter real human qualities. In his writing he expresses the idea that a month can really be in a hurry and is capable of dressing up and walking. With this phrase he conveys the general expectation of spring, when everybody is looking forward to sunshine and joy. And april, as if it is stepping on winter, making efforts to hurry it up.
Also, personification had great meaning in ancient times – when there were many cults of animals. Animals were attributed to a particular person, depending on his qualities, skills and, certainly, courage. When tribes or individuals triumphed, they had a right to require from the fallen ones to worship the winners’ totem. Egyptians treated the gods not just as spirits, but as reasonable embodiments, who are able to transform into any creature or thing. In Egyptian mythology cats were associated with a large number of deities. For instance, Bast (the cat-headed goddess) was an incarnation of protection, fertility, and motherhood. Since the time, when cats began to be identified with Bast, they simultaneously began to be mummified by people. Honors received by them posthumously reflected what they had embodied for every day of their lives. The Greek historian Herodotus (Cats in Ancient Egypt, n. d.) wrote that “the Egyptians rushed into the burning house to make sure there was no cat inside, and after the death of the cat family was in mourning and shaved off their eyebrows as a sign of grief.”
So, what is the purpose of using personification as a literary tool?
The aim of this is to attract and interest readers, making them get involved in the story. Also, this tool makes the plot vivid and flexible. Moreover, impersonation is one of the greatest ways to express mood of definite writing without direct description of it. The authors understand that it is very important not to lose readers and do everything in the direction of keeping them reading. In general, people are likely to believe in something alive and have emotional feedback from any reading. Personification helps to visualize the story and creates some space for human imagination.
Along with impersonation intellectual and emotional sides of the personality are equally and intensively refined. Incarnation helps a person not only to understand the content but also feel the life of the surrounding world, because it is considered to be one of the manifestations of the capacity for empathy. Through an understanding of impersonation, the human ability to empathize and feel is in the process of restoring. Writers comprehend that it is difficult to keep this ability throughout life, and with help of their works they try to remind people that all we live in the world which is full of imagination and living beings we should value and take care of.
Literature is a form of art. However, this doesn’t mean that there are no rules and laws in this discipline. There are a lot of literary tools that you should know if you are going to write a work of fiction. Also, you should be knowledgeable in literary theoretical framework when studying literature. We would like to get you acquainted with our sample literary analysis essay, so you can see how difficult it can be to identify literary tools in text.
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