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Learn What Personification is and Why it is Used, With Examples

Personification is a very popular figure of speech, used in poetry and prose. Here are some examples of personification to help you understand it.
Puja Lalwani
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
There are several times when we say certain things without realizing the technical aspects that go into making those statements as beautiful as they are. Similar is the case with the use of personification in the English language. It is a figure of speech wherein human qualities are used to describe an inanimate or non-living object, through concepts or actions. Let's understand the purpose of personification with some examples to explain it.
Why is Personification Used?
An example is, "The vines wove their fingers together to form a braid." What do you understand from a statement like this? You will understand it well when you know what purposes personification serves.
  • It creates a visual imagery in a manner so beautiful, that you are tempted to imagine what you read.
  • The use of this literary device gives a break from the monotonous language that you may be used to reading all the time.
  • By giving human qualities to an object, it serves to emphasize that object, to give the object its own identity, and explain its place in the piece of literature.
  • The use of this figure of apeech also enables the object, action, or concept that is personified, to communicate with the reader.
Personification is used in pieces of prose and poetry. In fact, a lot of ad slogans also use this figure of speech as it enables the product to connect with the consumer in a more efficient manner. Let's now discuss some examples in literature and poetry.
Examples in Literature
It is believed that in works of fiction, the use of personification is limited. However, this is not true. Fiction or non-fiction, a piece of prose can definitely stimulate your imagination by means of this verbal device, and bring it to life. It is important to note that an overuse of this figure of speech is likely to steal its uniqueness, and get not only monotonous, but also overbearing after a point of time. A good example has been given here.
... I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night. ― The Kite Runner, Khalid Hosseini
In this example, the concept of pain is personified, by giving it a life-like quality on its own. The abstractness of pain, by giving it human qualities, is explained beautifully so that its true essence is understood.
But, on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom. ― The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
In this example, the rose bush is personified in the context that it 'offers' its fragrance and beauty to the prisoner.
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she. (2. 2. 4-8)
― Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
Where Juliet is compared to the morning sun, it is a metaphor. Where the sun is spoken to as if it were a living being (Arise, fair sun), it is an example of personification. Further, the moon is also personified by being called 'sick and pale with grief'. The moon here is a metaphor.
Examples in Poetry
Poetry has often resorted to personification to make itself understood. It allows the poet to give an abstract concept, such as the weather, a deeper meaning, and encompass all its qualities in a few short lines. For instance, the poem To Autumn by John Keats personifies autumn. It is an ode to the season, and almost every verse has ample usage of this device to explain this. Some lines from this poem will help you understand it better.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Another popular example in poetry can be found in the poem Daffodils by William Wordsworth. Here, the daffodils are brought to life by having them flutter and dance in the breeze.
I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
A beautiful example is evident in the poem Mirror by Sylvia Plath. It offers a perspective to human life from a mirror's point of view.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Personification is a beautiful literary device that brings to life, some of the most underrated and overlooked objects and concepts. However, its overuse may cause monotony. The aforementioned examples will give you an idea of the manner of its use. If you wish to use this to enhance your writing, derive inspiration from these examples, and make the most of this magnificent literary device.