Difference between allegory and metaphor
Allegory vs metaphor:
Literary techniques and figures of speech are the banes of many a literature students’ life. These are very technical terms which refer to certain functionalities of the language where certain techniques are used to elaborate the language used in particular pieces of work with the aim of presenting a more elegant, sophisticated idea. Allegory and metaphor are two such terms which are often confused with one another because of their apparent similarity. Therefore, this article seeks to differentiate the two by providing separate definitions for the two terms which in turn will render the explanation much easier.
What is an allegory?
An allegory can be best described as a literary device which has an analogous meaning in relation to perception or else, abstractions in social, historical or political ideas or events which could either conceal or reveal a criticism. It is an extended form of metaphor which consists of a longer passage of comparisons than just a phrase. An allegory is symbolically substituted for something else with another object. They are seen widely used in literature, painting, sculpting and etc. Some examples for allegories can be pointed out as the figure of the grim reaper as an allegory of death or Aphrodite as the Goddess of love. Also, justice is represented by a blindfolded figure holding up a scale.
What is a metaphor?
A metaphor is best described as a comparison by identification or a substitution of two unlike objects or ideas used one for the other. It establishes a direct relationship of one object or an idea to another seemingly alike object or phenomena in an attempt to convey the intended meaning or to provide a sensory feeling of that idea or the phenomena. It is a rhetorical trope that represents the first subject as being similar or equal to a second object or subject in any way. Observe the following statements as examples of metaphors.
Her eyes are glistening jewels
Men are dogs
The black abyss of her heart
Metaphors can be found in profusion in literature, particularly in poetry.
What is the difference between a metaphor and an allegory?
The difference between a metaphor and an allegory can be quite confusing to most. While both involve the process of referring to a certain phenomena or an object while linking it to another in order to convey the idea more effectively, an allegory can be stated as an extended sort of metaphor which is a comparison made on a more profound note.
Also an allegory could be an abstract idea presented through a person, an object, a phenomena and etc. For example, the conflict and chaos in a person’s mind can be depicted by a physical storm which takes place in the real world or the example of Hades being presented as the God of death and of the underworld are instances where an abstract idea is represented by a figure or a phenomena.
While a metaphor is usually a single phrase consisting of two or three words, an allegory is a much longer passage of comparison. For example, the phrase “men are dogs” is a sentence of just three words whereas Plato’s allegory of the cave which represents the imprisoned nature of the human being through an actual group of humans chained in a cave is a much larger representation as well as a prolonged description. By this, Plato tries to imply that if only they had given up this imprisoned nature will they be able to perceive the sunlight, which refers to a deeper philosophy than a metaphor could imply. Another good example is where George Orwell uses the allegory of an animal farm which demonstrates the psychological foundation of revolution in his book “The animal farm”.
While allegories are widely used in literature, paintings, sculpture alike, metaphors are only used in literature, particularly in poetry. Therefore, we can see how similar both metaphors and allegories are and how, because of these similarities it is so very easy to get the two confused.
Tags: alliteration, allusion, analogue, analogy, anaphora, anticlimax, antistrophe, antithesis, aposiopesis, apostrophe, asyndeton, bathos, comparison, echoism, ellipsis, euphemism, exaggeration, imagery, literature, stylistic device, symbol