What is Simile?

Simile is the simplest device of metaphorical language. It is a comparison of two concrete entities done with the help of comparing words like 'like', 'as', 'so', and so on. It can be easily recognized because the comparison is explicitly made by using those comparing or linking work.

The two objects or images can be easily connected in terms of meaning, as in: Robert Burn’s “O my love’s like a red, red rose.” Robert Burns asks us to consider the ways in which his beloved is like a rose and she is like a red rose. And not just a red rose, but is a “red” “red” rose. The redness of the rose has to do with the qualities of the speakers beloved. The rose image tells us something about the qualities of the speaker’s beloved and also about the qualities of his feeling for her.

However, even such a simple comparison like ‘lover’ and ‘rose’ demands more than ordinary attention and tactful interpretation; because the vehicles like ‘rose’ here usually carry several possible aspects of comparison. Simile is not as simple as its looks, and it demands tack and effort. It is necessary to consider the qualities of the red, red rose “that is newly sprung in June” like: freshness, fully blossoming, beautiful and attractive, soft, fragrant, and even its transient nature; we fully understand the comparison only when we interpret these and other potential qualities in terms of the qualities of a beloved: beautiful, young, tender, appealing, etc. We should interpret the complicated kinds of emotional appeal and urgency aroused by a blossoming rose in terms of similar appeals that a lover also arouses.

Whenever similes are used, we should also see how poets interconnect meanings of different similes. To understand the whole poem we should see how the lines of meaningful relations develop from one comparison to another.

Published on 17 Nov. 2013 by Kedar Nath Sharma

Related Topics

Metaphor: Introduction

Robert Burns: Biography

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Biography