Poets and prose-writers often attribute human qualities to non-human entities, such as animals, plants, forms of precipitation.

Sometimes the ability to act consciously are given to abstract notions (for instance, to love).

This rhetorical trope is called personification or prosopopoeia.

Personification in Literature

The literary device is typical of:

  • fairy tales;
  • myths;
  • fables;
  • poems.

Prosopopoeia is very old means of expression. Homer, who lived around 800 B.C., employed personification in his epic poems The Odyssey and The Iliad.
Aesop, the most famous author of fables, used it approximately in 400 B.C.

Nowadays prosopopoeia is a popular tool as before.

Usage of this figurative language technique in Poetry: examples

Then the bird said, 'Nevermore.'

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

         ...this nipping air,

Sent from some distant clime where Winter wields

His icy scimitar, a foretaste yields

Of bitter change, and bids the flowers beware

September 1815 by William Wordsworth

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;

Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

O Rose, thou art sick!

The invisible worm

That flies in the night,

In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed

Of crimson joy:

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy.

The Sick Rose by William Blake

What is the Function of Prosopopoeia?

The main function of personification is evident: the literary device makes images more vivid and memorable.

If we fancy that an object can think like human beings can, we experience empathy.

Prosopopoeia simplifies the complicated world. It is convenient to consider that things are alive and reasonable as well as people.

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