Differences between metaphor, analogy and allegory.
These rhetorical figures are frequently used, but not everyone knows their meaning.
Poetry is one of the oldest and best known arts, being since ancient times a way of expressing and projecting the emotions and thoughts that the contemplation of reality generates.
In this art, words are used to generate a mental and emotional image, often seeking that the rhythm, the sound and/or the concepts and meanings used express in a rhythmic and melodious way the reflections of the poet.
There are different figures or literary resources that allow to embellish these compositions.They have applications in poetry as well as in the habitual and figurative use of language: alliterations, ellipsis, hyperbaton, metaphors, analogies and allegories are examples. However, some of them, such as the last three, have many similarities between them and are sometimes confused.
That is why, in order to help distinguish them, we will discuss the main differences between metaphor, analogy and allegory in this article.
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What are metaphors, analogies and allegories?
Metaphors, analogies and allegories are literary or rhetorical figures of speech.They serve to endow language with expressiveness and beauty as well as to produce different effects by suggesting a non-literal meaning of the words used. But before delving into the differences between such similar concepts, it is important to establish a brief description of each of them.
Definition of metaphor
By metaphor we understand one of the most well-known literary figures in which a concept or concrete word is used in substitution and representation of another, with which it maintains some type of relation of similarity or some common property that is representative of both terms. or some common property that is representative of both terms. The concept to which we want to refer is identified with a different one, which is issued in substitution.
Definition of analogy
Analogy is another figure of speech that, like the previous one, establishes a relationship between two concepts or words, establishes a relationship between two concepts or words, making a comparison based on some characteristic or resemblance in order to show the similarity relationship.. More than between entities, things or objects, the comparison is established between two attributes. In fact, analogy may even include metaphors or allegories.
Definition of allegory
As far as allegory is concerned, this literary figure employs a successive chain of interrelated metaphors to form an explicit image. in such a way that a clear evidence of an idea, usually abstract, is formed.
Main differences between these concepts
Although they are very similar to each other, analogies, metaphors and analogies, metaphors and allegories present some differences that allow us to distinguish them and evaluate their existence separately..
The main differences between these literary figures are listed below.
Level of specificity
Although analogies, metaphors and allegories are different figures, the truth is that allegories usually include successions of metaphors and that analogies can reach and that analogies can be formed from them.
And we can even consider that allegories can include or be formed from analogies. Thus, although in general all metaphors are based on some kind of analogy, not every analogy has the form of a metaphor.
2. Comparison or substitution
One of the most easily visible characteristics that differentiates one from the other is that while the analogy establishes a comparison without the need to change the concepts themselves, the metaphor directly replaces the real term with the one being compared, the metaphor directly replaces the real term with that of the one being compared..
3. Necessary extension for its understanding
Another characteristic in which these rhetorical these rhetorical figures differ is in the different length or duration necessary to understand the concepts referred to.
Metaphor is usually brief and can be understood by itself, as is analogy. However, allegory being a succession of metaphors, it cannot be understood if it does not include different fragments throughout a composition.
4. Level of subtlety and abstraction
Another difference between these figures can be found in the level of abstraction or logic required to understand them.
Analogies are generally representations of logical associations that indicate a type of similarity between two elements, while metaphors and allegories tend to require a more imaginative and subtle mental effort by referring to more abstract elements, such as death or love, or to a relationship between concepts based on a common characteristic, such as brilliance, liveliness or color.
Examples of each of the three concepts
In order to help us to see what each of these concepts is and to better visualize their differences, we will now show a series of examples of each of them.
In the case of metaphorswe can find examples such as "the pearls of your mouth" to refer to the teeth and their whiteness or "your two stars" to refer to the eyes and their brightness.
Among the analogiesAn example could be "life is to death as love is to hate", in which the analogy between life-death and love-hate relations is established because in both cases we are talking about relations of opposition/complementarity between concepts. Another case would be "wings are to birds as legs are to humans", in which in both cases we are talking about the upper limbs of both birds and humans.
Regarding allegoriesAn example could be the following fragment of Jorge Manrique's couplets to refer to the cycle of life: "This world is the road to the other, which is a dwelling place without weight, but we must have good sense to walk this journey without wandering. We leave when we are born we walk, while we live, and we arrive at the time we die so when we die we rest".
Black, M. (1954). Metaphor, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 55, pp. 273-294.
Holyoak, K.J., and Thagard, P. (1995). Mental Leaps: Analogy in Creative Thought. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Jakobson, Roman (1990). "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances". In Linda Waugh; Monique Monville-Burston (eds.). On Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lakoff, George (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Rudmin, Floyd W. (1991). "Having: A Brief History of Metaphor and Meaning". Syracuse Law Review.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)