Analogies are freely applied in literature and real life both as a linguistic device and as a pattern of speech. The most general description of analogy implies the comparability of the two objects. As a logical term (which is the most prevalent form of analogy usage in everyday life), analogy acts as a kind of reasoning, which involves referring one object to another based on the similarity of their features.

As a literary tool, an analogy is a way to connect and compare two (sometimes absolutely unrelated) objects basing on certain qualities and details that they share. The term dates back to 1530-1540 and originates from the Greek (derivative from Latin) “analogia,” which translates as “equivalent, proportion.”

Analogy is an old linguistic tool, which can be used in any language and in any form of a literary piece. Authors use this technique for numerous reasons. Analogies help the reader create a link between two (oftentimes completely opposite) things or notions and understand them better by doing so. Another reason why writers add analogies to their literary works is to provide a deeper comparison and versatility of their characters or the objects they describe. Analogies also serve to help the reader visualize the scene and the characters better.

Because analogy is a wide technique, it includes some components and supplementary tools, which shouldn’t be confused with the original term:

  • Allegory, which is a linguistic tool that implies the use of symbolism. It can be linked to analogy as the symbols often create a connection between two different objects based on some details they share.

  • Metaphor is sometimes considered to be a stronger form of analogy, as its juxtaposition of two objects involves stating that one of them is actually another.

  • Simile, which itself is a comparison, isn’t as strong as a metaphor and as deep as an allegory. Still, it’s an effective tool where analogy needs to be drawn.

Analogies come in handy when the author needs to present a new notion that might be hard for the reader to understand. Thus, by drawing a simple analogy between a new concept and a particular old idea (making certain that they share some common details), the author creates a basis for the reader’s understanding without the need to provide a detailed explanation of the new idea.

Trying to compare and connect two unrelated objects requires language flexibility. Therefore, analogies help both the author and the reader to improve their skills and to dive deeper into linguistic peculiarities.

Oftentimes, especially in poetry, analogies serve to stir the reader’s feelings and add a certain depth to the general image. Instead of simply describing how the character feels, poets draw analogies and compare human emotions with natural phenomena and other unrelated aspects of life. This way, the reader gets a brighter, more vivid representation of the plot.

The analogy is not only a literary technique but also a logical phenomenon. That’s why it’s often used in various logical tests, for example, during the work interviews or in the standardized word exercises for children. Verbal analogies find their way into the everyday speech and help people explain certain concepts faster and easier.

We employ analogy in real life to explain certain emotions and feelings better. For example, people often compare emotional things with a roller coaster, trying to point at the complexity of the feelings they experience.

It’s not hard to find the examples of this linguistic technique in the pieces of literature, common expressions, proverbs, etc. For instance, W. Phillips in one of his speeches drew an analogy between what a gunpowder did for war and what printing press managed to do for the mind.

Mark Twain also used analogy in his “Tales of Wonder” when describing evolution. By comparing it with a blind giant, he wanted to help the reader understand how unpredictable it can be. This way, he managed to make an abstract idea more specific and easier to perceive.

Another famous analogy example lies in the work of Walt Whitman where he compares the president with a sea captain. This is a great way to add more feeling and depth to the text, creating a more symbolic image of a regular character.