What is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a term used to describe a certain type of relationship – one that is not causal in nature. For example, you and I would not be able to say “Your feelings for me are like beans.” We use the word “metaphor” to communicate this idea. By defining a metaphor, we are able to explain why certain ideas or reactions occur. By understanding the meaning of a metaphor, it becomes easier to understand the concepts that are behind them.

The word “metaphor” was first used in reference to a play by George Eliot. In such a play, the Metaphor (also called the Sympathectomy) is one of the major plot devices. The Sympathectomy involves a character seeing his idealized version of what his ideal world would look like. When he talks about this to his friends, they are none the wiser as he continues to describe it in terms of metaphor.

What is a Metaphor?
What is a Metaphor?

One example of a metaphor in literature is when Marlow relates a story to his friends. As he tells it, each of them can see what Marlow sees in his imagination. However, when Marlow refers to this imaginary scene, his words don’t make any sense as he uses “I” instead of “you.” This shows that the Metaphor isn’t a fixed concept. While one may use the word “metaphor” to interpret any sort of relationship, it is most often used to express a particular relationship.

Take, for example, a marriage. Suppose one of the partners refers to the other as their “soul mate.” This would be a metaphor that both partners could agree on. However, the idea that the soul mate exists isn’t part of the idea of marriage as we normally conceive of it. In the “soul mate” example, the metaphor being used causes the ideas of the “soul mate” to be incorporated into the story. The story doesn’t require the idea of a soul mate because it has been transformed into a metaphor.

This metaphor is used all the time with everyday events. When you mention a job or a vacation, the words you usually use are “worked at,” “taken vacation,” and so on. These words, when used alone, don’t express an idea but they are metamorphosed into ideas when used in association with another idea. For example, I worked at a bank for twelve years, but only six of those years were spent on the job.

Here’s a similar example: A man names his daughter Ariel. The man’s wife gives birth to another girl named Ariel. After a few months, Ariel develops amnesia and can no longer recall her name or where she lives. As a result, her parents tell her that she’s their “soul mate.” This is a metaphor for memory loss but it’s a perfect one: Ariel is the woman’s memory and the man is their life.

Metaphor can be used in stories to link together disparate elements that may seem unrelated. For example, two friends meet in a park on their way to a baseball game. However, as they walk along the path, they notice a bench where a man hit his head last night. They decide to sit on it for the afternoon so that they can talk about the event if it happened while they were walking. As they discuss the event, they realize that the event was an accident, that there were no lifeguards on duty that day, and that there was a police officer nearby who saw them walking.

Metaphors can be used to explain an idea in a simple way. For example, the American Red Cross uses a metaphor when asking someone to donate blood because there is a special process for doing so. The term “needle” is a metaphor for blood; “donate” is a metaphor for money. Donating needles is a good metaphor for accepting something new, since needles are needed throughout life. Using metatags or other tools to record ideas helps people organize their memories and to recall what they’ve experienced.

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