Simile is a simple, yet very effective and prevalent literary tool. It is a pattern of speech, which implies expressing the resemblance between two different objects and involves using the additional words “as” or “like”.
The term was first mentioned in the English language approximately in 1350-1400. It derives from the word “similis” (Latin), which can be translated as “likeness”, “similarity”.
Given the fact that simile always implies a comparison, it oftentimes gets confused with another linguistic tool – metaphor. The easiest way to distinguish these two literary techniques from each other is to look at how they are structured and what words are used in their patterns. While simile implies using either “like” or “as”, metaphor doesn’t need any additional words and can draw comparisons by simply naming one thing another.
Analogy is another linguistic term that can relate to simile. Despite the fact that they both involve comparison, analogies are a bit more complicated than similes and oftentimes imply a hidden meaning or a serious subtext. Analogies also take up a different form in literary works. They usually imply referencing one object to another relying on the assumption that if they have at least one similar trait, they might share other characteristics.
Similes can be subdivided into two groups: implicit and explicit. The difference between these two subtypes lies in the way the similes are phrased. Explicit similes imply a certain indication when two objects are being compared, for example, “She is beautiful like a flower”. At the same time, implicit similes don’t involve any additional explanation of the comparison, for instance, “She is like a flower”. Implicit similes give the reader a chance to develop the thought. The reader can suppose that the girl is beautiful, tender, or, let’s say, bright like a flower. Implicit similes allow the reader to use their imagination more as there’s no supportive context around the comparison.
Simile is a very diversified tool, which can be used for a large number of purposes. The most prevalent role similes play in literary pieces is the role of the intensifier. They allow the authors to add more vividness to the text. Similes are a great way to create a deeper, more artistic description, especially in poetry. They help the writer develop the theme and help the reader create a certain image in their head. Similes are also able to add a more emotional meaning to the subject.
As it has been mentioned before, simile oftentimes acts as an intensifier, which comes in handy when the author needs to make an ordinary thing seem to be more unusual or unique. It’s also a very helpful tool when the writer wants to explain an uncommon phenomenon better and perhaps even make it more familiar to the reader. By comparing unusual objects with something the reader is already familiar with, the author improves the understanding of those objects without the need to provide a too lengthy explanation.
Similes can be implemented in order to create an ironic effect. When putting together two incongruous objects or ideas, the author is able to create an absurd situation and make the reader laugh.
Another prevalent use of simile implies the author’s desire to make the text and the language more descriptive, creative, and more artistically pleasing. That’s why simile has been such a favored literary tool for many years.
Oftentimes, using simile can help the author describe certain objects better, especially when comparing two unrelated ideas or subjects. By looking for similar traits in dissimilar characters or things, the author highlights certain traits of each of them and reveals their characteristics more effectively.
The examples of simile can be found in prose, poetry, and even everyday speech. Despite being more prevalent in poetical pieces, similes are common in prose works as well. For instance, in the novel “1984”, G. Orwell describes a man “as still as a mouse”, pointing not only at the character’s stillness but also at his state of helplessness. Another example from this work is the phrase “trumping like a drum” when describing a heartbeat. Instead of simply saying that the man was scared, Orwell decided to use simile and compare the heartbeat with a drum rhythm, creating a more vivid picture and a bigger emphasis on the hero’s state.
V. Nabokov also used simile to provide a brighter description and a clearer image. For example, in “Lolita”, he compared elderly women walking with the canes with towers of Pisa, which surely helps the reader create a certain image in their head and adds more creativeness to the text.
Poetry is full of simile examples. Shakespeare, for instance, used negative simile in one of his sonnets. In “Sonnet 130”, he describes the mistress by not comparing her with certain objects or phenomena but by stating what she is not like. This way, the author managed to use simile in a rather untraditional way, thus increasing the poetical value of his work and adding more artistry to it.
Similes are prevalent in various literary genres and even in the everyday speech. This linguistic tool implies comparing one subject, character, or concept to another using the supplementary “like” or “as”. It derives from the Latin word “similis”, which means “likeness”. It came to use in English in the 14th century and can be found in numerous works of literature.
The main goal of using similes is to provide a more distinctive, vivid description of a character or a concept. Authors use similes to make the language more complex and artistic, to help the reader understand certain phenomena better, stir the associated emotions, and create new interesting connections in their minds.