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Objectives Introduction Metaphor, Simile, and Irony Transferred Epithet, Oxymoron and Paradox Extended Metaphor Hyperbole, Understatement and Allegory Part for the Whole Object for Person Euphemism Idioms and Proverbs Extension by Change in Word Class (Part of Speech) Imagery Let Us Sum Up Key Words Suggested Reading Answers



In this unit we shall discuss what is called the figurative use of words, that is, using them in ways other than their ordinary meanings. After completing this unit, you will be able to understand the meanings conveyed by words used in an extended sense by poets and other writers, and notice how these extensions help the writers to make their writings more effective.



In the context of meaning in ordinary and literary language a distinction is made between 'denotation' and 'connotation'. Denotation is a term that is used for distinguishing basic or central or common meanings of words as distinct from those represented by the term connotation, which refers to the associative or metaphoric meanings in literary contexts. For example, the denotative meaning of the word 'home' can be 'a dwelling place' but in a special or connotative use it can mean 'warmth' and also 'domesticity'. In literature connotations exist in the frequent use of figures of speech. That is, words are used in ways other than in their ordinary meanings to make a word picture or a comparison, e.g. 'a sweet temper'. These figures of speech help to beautify language and enable the writers to make their descriptions more effective.



In metaphor one thing is described as another (X is Y) and in the process there is a carrying over of meanings. For example., in the expression 'Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the lion of Punjab', the meanings of 'fearlessness' and 'bravery' associated with

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'lion' are transferred on to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. So in metaphors we find h f e r e n c e of meanings due to hidden or 'implicit' comparisons that take place. A simile; unlike a metaphor, is an expression which makes an 'explicitq or direct comparison between two things by the use of words 'like' or 'as'. For example, in the expression 'Her cheeks are like roses' the meaning of 'redness' and 'freshness' is transferred from 'roses' to 'cheeks' through a direct comparison.

Irony, as distinct from the above two is a figure of speech where the words actually used mean quite the opposite in the context. E.g., 'How smart! ' and What a lovely weather! ' could mean 'How foolish' (when a person may have done something silly) or 'What a bad weather' (if it is extremely cold etc) respectively.
Check Your Progress 1

Say which of the italicized words and phrases in the following sentences are similes, metaphors and irony? Check your answers with those given at the end of the unit. i) Gandhiji wanted his disciples to face life like soldiers.


'Dear God! the very houses seem asleep, And all that m g t heart is lying still!' (Wordsworth: 'On Westminster ihy Bridge')


'I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills."(~ordsworth: 'Daffodils')


'Here I live in a garbage can. ' (Shiv K . Kurnar: 'Days in New York')


'Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end.' (Shakespeare: 'Revolutions')



'Eternal Spirit of the Chainless Mind. '


'You have entertained us enough". (Mr. Bennet says to his daughter Lydia, who, though not being a good singer, has been singing for a long time to the embarrassment of the guests in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice)



Extension of Meaning - 2: Figures of Speech

An epithet is an adjective or descriptive phrase, especially of praise or blame, used of a person. In poetry, we find many instances of what we call transferred epithets. In

these the sense is transferred from a person to an abstract idea. Look at these lines from John Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale'.
In some melodious plot Of beechen green and shadows numberless, Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

Look at'the phrase melodious plot. The plot of land where the nightingale sings cannot be melodious or sweet-sounding. It is the ni&tingalets song which is melodious. Here the epithet melodious has been transferred from the nightingale's song to the plot. To explain the transfer we can say, 'The plot of land where the nightingale sings is filled with the sound of the nightingale's sweet song.' So we see that the phrase 'melodious plot' compresses a long sentence into a short phrase, which is so expressive.
An oxymoron is an expression which juxtaposes or combines together apparently

contradictory words for a striking effect or for wittiness, or to create a synthetic effect. E.g.: Parting is such sweet sorrow (Romeo and Juliet 11. ii) Paradox is a statement which appears to be selfcontradictory. E.g.: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. (G.Orwell1984 1.i)

Meanings, both in oxymoron and paradox, are obtained by resolving the oppositions/contradictions.
Check Your Progress 2

Here are some examples of transferred kpithet, oxymoron and paradox. Explain in a few words the literary meanings. i) Singest of summer infill-throated ease.


To live a life half-dead, a living death (J. Milton Samson Agonistes)

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Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard. Are sweeter; (J. Keats. 'Ode to a Grecian Urn', 11-12)



Sometimes the extension of meaning may run through a series of words in a poem. There may be a string of metaphors all extending the meaning of the single theme in . a poem through different stages. Look at these lines from Shakespeare's play Macbeth: Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and hy, Signifjlingnothing. The theme discussed here is 'Life'. First, it is described as 'a walking shadow'. The idea here is extended from a man to 'Life'. Life 'walks' because it moves on continuously. It is a 'shadow' because it has nothing that is permanent, nothing that can be captured or held back. Other metaphors highlight the other aspects of Life: 'a poor player': an actor who is not respected because of lack of ability 'struts': walks in a proud strong way trylng to look important 'frets': is continually worried.



Hyperbole is a figure of speech o h n known as 'exaggeration' or 'over statement'. It is generally used in drama for emphasis or as a sign of eeat emotion or passion. E.g., the statement - 'it made my blood boil' - could mean extreme anger.
Underctatement is a species of irony where the true magnitude of an idea, event or fact is minimized or not stated. E.g., rather than state the bad directly as in a testimonial, the fact can be understated in the statement 'The applicant's academic record is not over impressive. Sometimes,, a story or a poem is written in such a way as to have two coherent meanings. h i s is called an allegory. For example in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress the hero Christian's journey from the city of destruction illustrates Christian

salvation. In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the story has animals as its characters, but they represent a deeper theme of social organization.
Check Your Progress 3

Extension of Meanlng - 2: Flgwes of Speech

Explain the meaning of the hyperbole in the below given lines: I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers Could not, with all their quantity of love, Make up my sum (W. Shakespeare Hamlet V. ii)


Explain the understatement in the below given line: a. b. '..They did not care for war' f (said of cowards fleeing fiom the battlefield in The Battle o Maldon, 192). It is sometimes a bit cold at the North Pole.


Here is a paem-'Uphill' by Christina Rossetti. The poem is an allegoly. It describes a traveller's journey up a hill, but in fact it represents the pilgrim's path towards God. Read the poem and answer the questions that follow. Check your answers.


C.G. Rossetti Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the very end. Will the day's journey take the whole long day'? From mom to night, my friend. But is there for the night a resting-place? A roof for when the slow dark hours begin. May not the darkness hide it fiom my face? You cannot miss that inn. Shall I meet other way-farers at night? Those who have gone before. Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? They will not keep you standing at the door. Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak? Of labour you shall find the sum. Will there be beds for me and all who seek? Yea, beds for all who come.

'Mark the correct answers:


This is a religious poem. It is about a pilgrim going towards God. The road winding uphill describes

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a) b) c) ii)

the difficult path to God. the difficult passages of holy books. the difficult exercises in meditation one has to do in one's journey towards God.

The other wayfarers who have gone before are relatives who died long ago. a) b) other seekers or pilgrims. c) obstacles in the path. 'The inn' is where the pilgrims drink and eat. a) a place on the way where one rests. b) heaven where one finally rests. c) 'Beds for all who come' means a place in God's kingdom. a) b) beds in a hotel. special privileges for sombaintly persons. c)





Sometimes a word representing part of an idea is used to mean the whole. E.g. Twenty summers' for 'twenty years', 'ten hands' for 'ten men', 'blind mouths' for 'corrupt priests'.



- Sometimes a word representing an object used by a person is used to refer to the

person himself. E.g. The White House' for the President of the V .S.A. The Crown' for the King.



Euphemism is the use of a pleasanter, less direct word for something thought to be unpleasant. E.g. 'He passed away' for 'He died'.

Check Your Progress 4

Pick out the examples of extension from (i) a part to the whole, (ii) an object to a person, and i) unpleasant to pleasant, in the following sentences.

Use your dictionary, when necessary. Chock your answers with those given at the end. i) And since to look at things in bloom Fifty springs are little room, About the woodlands I will go


To see the cherry hung with snow', (A.E. Housman: The Cherry Tree')

Extension of Meaning - 2: Figures of Speech


The Vatican issued an order. (Vatican: the large palace in which the Pope lives in Rome, Italy)


There are seven mouths to feed.


Three pairs of eyes watched us.


There were a hundred sails on the river.


The old man has at last fallen asleep. He is now h e fiom all the cares and worries of this world.


His enemies thought they should now do away with him.



An idiom is a phrase which means something different from the meanings of the separate words. It is a kind of dead metaphor. By repeated use the extended meaning of the phrase has become fixed. E.g. The President will be on the air (= broadcasting) fiom 6 to 7 p.m.
A proverb is a short well-known saying in popular language. Proverbs also depend for their force on extension of meaning.

E.g. 'A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.' It means that something one has actually got is better than a much greater gain that one may or may not achieve.

Check Your Progress 5

Point out the idioms and proverbs in the following. Say how the extension has taken place. Check your answers.

Example: An account to settle is an idiom based on a figurative expression. 'haccount' is usually a statement of money that you owe; you pay the money to settle the account. In the same way, a person may take revenge for some injury done to him and thus settle the account.

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He was so angry he couldn't help blowing off steam.


Don't, count your chickens before they are hatched.


He passed the examination with flying colours.


Sometimes a word is used in a literal sense as one part of speech and in an extended sense in another part of speech. E.g. He stayed closeted for hours. The noun closet means a cupboard built into the wall of a room. It also means a small private room for thought, prayer, etc. As a verb it means 'to enclose oneself in a private room'. Check Your progress 6

Explain the extension in meaning ffom one part of speech to another in the italicized words in the sentences given below: i)

......need not go about with the beggar's bowl, if the people have learnt to husband their resources well. O)yarelal: 'One Perfect Act')

Extension of Meaning - 2: Figures of Speech


The man was spirited away.

When pictures are made with words to concretize and make an idea clear, it is called imagery. These pictures may contain a number of extensions of meaning. Look at this c poem: Where the mind is without fear And the head is held high, Where knowledge is fiee, And the world has not been broken up into h p e n t s by narrow domestic walls, Where the clear stream of reason has not been lost in the dreary desert sand of dead habit, Into that haven of fieedom, 0 father, let my country awake. (Rabindra Nath Tagore ) In the poem above we find these word pictures or i,mages. 1) 2)

'world broken up into fiagrnents by narrow domestic walls'. 'clear stream of reason'. 'lost in the dreary desert sand of dead habit' .

Now let us explain the extensions: In (1) the picture is carried over fiorn a houke divided by walls into rooms. The brothers live separately in different rooms and their relations are strained. In the context of our country, the poet wants to pull down the walls that divide people. In (2) above, 'reason' is the power to thmk, understand, and form opinions without being influenced by emotions or prejudices. Our thinking should flow like a clear stream of water. There should be no obstacle in the course it flows through. In (3) above 'dead habit' makes a person incapable of clear thinking. Only prejudices and sentiments influence his judgements. It slows down thinking, like sand that slows down the movement of water. Check Your Progress 7 m a d the following poem and point out the images or word pictures. Then explain the extension of meaning in them Use your dictionary if necessary. Check your a s e s nwr with those given at the end.

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The glories of our blood and state Are shadows, not substantial things; There is no armour against fate, Death lays his icy hand on kings: Sceptre and Crown Must tumble down. And in the dust be equal made With the poor crooked scythe and spade. The garlands wither on your brow; ihy Then boast no more your m g t deeds; Upon Death's purple altar now 12 See where the victor-victim bleeds: Your heads must come To the cold tomb; Only the actions of the just 16 Smell sweet, and blossom in their dust. (J. Shirley: 'Death the Levellei)

2 1 LET US S U M U P .2
In this unit, you have learnt about different figures of speech and how the meanings of words get extended. You have also seen how poets and other writers use figures of speech to produce word pictures effectively.

2 1 KEY W O R D S .3
'allegory: a story, description, etc. in which ideas are symbolized as persons who are characters in the story

'epithet: an adjective or descriptive phase used to indicate the character of somebody or something 'euphemism: the use of other mild and indirect words or phrases in place of what is required by truth, e.g. 'pass away' for 'die'

Extension of Meaning - 2: Figures of Speech

'figure of 'speech: an expression, e.g. a simile or a metaphor, that gives variety or force by using words out of their literal meaning 'idiom: a phrase whose meaning is not obvious through a knowledge of the individual meanings of the constituent words, but must be learnt as a whole, e.g. give way 'imagery: the use of images or figures of speech that bring pictures to the mind

'metaphor: the use of words to indicate something different fiom the literal meaning, as in 'He has a heart of stone.' 'oxymoron: an expression consisting of two words each of them having an opposing sense as in 'visible darkness'. 'paradox: a sentence which appears to be a contradiction as Death thou shall die.' 'part of 'speech: one of the classes of words, e.g. noun, verb, adjective 'proverb: a popular, short saying with words of advice or warning, e.g. 'It takes two' to make a quarrel.' 'simile: a comparison of one thing to another; e.g. 'He is as brave as a lion.'


A.E. Housman John Keats George Orwell - William Wordsworth

The Cherry Tree' 'Ode to a Nightingale' Animal Farm 'Daffodils', 'Ssnnet composed upon Westminster Bridge'

Check Your Progress 1 i) ii) iii) iv) v) vi) vii) like soldiers: simile asleep: metaphor as a cloud: simile garbage can: metaphor like as the waves: simile chainless mind: metaphor entertained us enough : irony

Check Your Progress 2


The nightingale has a fill-throated, that is, a loud voice. There is also 'ease', that is, the ability to sing without any difficulty or anxiety. The epithet, 'fillthroated', which normally goes with 'voice', has been attached to 'ease'. To live a life halfdead *plies living a life of sufferings: 'living' and 'death' are two opposite words with opposite meanings. Such words are generally not used together. When used, such a device is called oxymoron.


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Heard melodies are hice to hear but there is always a desire to hear the unheard melodies and therefore they are sweeter. There seems to be an apparent illogic in the sentence and therefore, it is a paradox.

Check Your Progress 3

1. Hamlet's love for Ophelia is expressed in an exaggerated manner when Hamlet says that .even if Ophelia had forty thousand brothers who loved her dearly, they could not have equalled Hamlet's love for her. Instead of saying that the cowards ran away fiom the battlefield, what is said here is athat they did not care for war: a nicer way of overlooking the cowardice. i) (a) ii) (b) iii) (c) iv) (a)



Check Your Progress 4

i) ii) iii) iv) v) vi) vii) Fifty springs: Fifty years (part for whole ) The Vatican: The Pope (object for person) seven mouths: seven persons (part for whole ) Three pairs of eyes: three persons (part for whole ) A hundred sails: a hundred boats (part for whole ) has fallen asleep: has died (pleasant way of saying an unpleasant thing) do away with him: kill him (pleasant way of saying an unpleasant thing)

Check Your Progress 5

i) blowing off steam - Idiom T o blow' is to send out a strong current of air, especially fiom the lungs. Steam is used under pressure in what is called a steam engine to produce power or heat: When a man gives expression to anger or excitement, we say he is blowing off steam. Aproverb We cannot be certain how many eggs will hatch and produce chicks. Some may not hatch at all. Similarly, we should not make our plans depending on something which has not yet happened. With flying colours - Idiom \ The word 'colours' refers to the official flag of a country, ship, part of the army, etc. Flying colours are flags shown as a sign of victory. Here it means that he passed the examination with great success.



Check Your Progress 6

i) husband: As a noun, 'husband' refers to the man to whom a woman is married. As a verb it means '.to save carefully and make the best use of (one's resources)'.


'Spirit' as a noun refers to one's mind or soul, or a being witliout a body, such as a ghost. To be 'spirited away' means 'to be carried away in a secret and mysterious way'.

Extension of Meaning - 2: Figures of Speech

Check Your Progress 7


Lines 1-2 The fame we get in this world because of birth in a noble or rich family or because of our high position - 'the glories of our blood and state'--are 'shadows'. Like shadows, they have no substance and pass away soon.
, Lines 3-8 No one can protect oneself against his final fate, which is death. 'Armour' is used as a protective covering. But it cannot save people, not even kings, when Death (personified here) touches them with its icy hand. A sceptre is a short rod carried by a ruler as a sign of power, and a crown is the ornamental headdress worn by a king or queen. Sceptre and Crown thus refer to kings. A 'scythe' is a tool to cut grain or long grass, and a spade is used for digging earth. So 'scythe and spade' refer to workers on the farms and in the gardens. The king and the labourer become equal in death. They both have to die.



Lines 9-12 The freshness of the flowers in a conqueror's garland is soon lost. His greatness is short-lived. An altar is a raised level surface on which things are offered to a God. The victor becomes a victim and is offered to Death. Lines13-16 Just as plants grow from the earth and produce flowers which spread their sweet smell, similarly the deeds of men who are good and fair are remembered even after their death.