The World Is A Window


Metaphors and Extended Metaphors

A metaphor is a relationship of equality between two objects. When we say, A is B, or A is like B, we create a metaphor. (in this definition, a simile is a metaphor too)

An example would help here. In Adam’s Curse, Yeats writes:

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

There are many metaphors in this extract. The daylight is compared to embers, the sky to the sea and the moon to the shell. My favourite metaphor here is between time and the sea, and when its waves crash on the shore, breaking it into days and years.

Why do we use metaphors? To make things visual, to add some shock value and imagery and to explain a complicated concept.

An extended metaphor is a metaphor that lasts a significant length in the text, often the entire text. Shakespeare’s All The World’s A Stage is an extended metaphor because after it compares the world to a stage, it extends it using other related ideas: the roles and the acts for instance.

Extended metaphors are usually employed for greater literary effect.

Example

How will I write a metaphor? First, I will steal an idea, say Dylan’s “And but for the sky there are no fences facing”, which I find appealing.

Then, I will ask what the fence represents. That word has the connotation of a barrier or separation. I will write about separation. I will relate it with other symbols, such as clouds floating or rain falling, things that generally happen in skies. I will also make the metaphor negative.

The red skies spread out guilty and fenceless in all directions. I, hitherto a wandering thundercloud, had recently shed much of my imposing weight so that my tumults appeared as mere fluffs. I was a traveler, confined to this expanse in search of someone who always lay beyond the horizon. It was not impossible to find them — the sky is not bound in the concerns of earthly separations — but with every passing day, I lost a little direction, a little hope in this barrenness we call life.

Exercise

Write a short entry (max. 1000 words) explaining something as an extended metaphor. The entry must be complete, which means that cliffhangers and rants are a strict no.

A few tips:

  • Keep your language simple but evocative. A metaphor need not work because it uses difficult words (see Yeats above) but because it uses stark ideas. Force your reader to stop and gawk over the remarkable comparisons you make (the moon is a coffee machine! wow!).

  • Remember that the metaphor you choose determines your tone. Saying that death is a ping-pong ball has a lighter effect than saying that death is a park shrouded with fog.

  • Do not extend the metaphor longer than you need to. The metaphor is not the complete piece or story, unless it is strong enough to carry the weight of the story.

Prompts

Here are a few prompts to get you started. You can choose to ignore these and write your own ideas.

  • Independence Day, aliens, and the plasma rays raining down on the subzee mandi like potatoes dropping out of a stressed sac.

  • My heart is a clueless fox in the wild,
    It bounds and leaps; its tail behind…

  • Kanpur 2019, and Ashraf paints for a living in the city that recently burned down the mosque.

  • Growing up is like finding coins on the river bed.

Further Reading:

Author: Ayush

I love writing, and this blog serves as a slow growing collection of all my writing endeavours.

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