What is the example of metaphorical symbolism

Metaphor: definition, 14 typical examples & tips for analysis

The metaphor is probably the best-known stylistic device and is used particularly frequently. Many metaphors have now made it into everyday language and form fixed statements. Find out everything you need to know about metaphors below.

The metaphor is one of the most important stylistic devices in literature and is accordingly often taught as the first rhetorical device in school. It is used in numerous texts, poems and also in everyday language. We explain the rhetorical means to you.

Definition: what a metaphor is

Definition: what a metaphor is

Generally the metaphor is a linguistic expression with very pictorial content. A certain word becomes its real one Context of meaning torn and inserted into another without being directly related. With the help of the metaphor, an image is created that can be interpreted in terms of a certain aspect and thus receives a meaning.

So the metaphor works with one transmission. Hence the name itself, which originally comes from the Greek and translated means transference. The actually disjointed words have to be interpreted for something in common. This becomes particularly clear in the example of “snail's pace”. Because the term is made up of the words “snail” and “speed”, although viewed neutrally these have nothing to do with each other. From this composition, however, you can interpret that a snail generally moves very slowly. So the term “snail pace” simply means “slow pace”.

If you recognize a metaphor in a text, you should be clear of one comparison delimit. While the metaphor establishes the context completely without aids, a comparison is made with the aid of a “how” that connects the otherwise disjointed words. In the case of the above example, a typical comparison would be "slow as a snail". The scope for interpretation disappears and is made clear in this way.

However, metaphors do not have to consist of just one word, they can also consist of several words put together. A well-known example is “breaking someone's heart”. This metaphor has long since made it into everyday language and is used without being perceived as a metaphor. Some metaphors are now considered to be dead metaphors, because their metaphorical character has been lost over the centuries and they appear as independent and fully established words, for example “table leg” or “tree crown”.

Examples of metaphors

Examples of metaphors

The metaphor haunted no clear principle and it can occur in a number of ways. It can sometimes take some time before you recognize the linguistic images in the text. With a little practice, however, you can quickly recognize the stylistic device and use it for your factual text analysis, poetry analysis or novel analysis, for example. So that you get a better picture of what metaphors are, we have put together some typical examples from everyday language and their meanings for you.

"Wall of Silence"

This metaphor illustrates an all-encompassing silence that surrounds a person like a wall. The silence itself is perceived here as a rejection and therefore has a negative connotation.

"Pink glasses"

This metaphor says that someone has a selective and exclusively positive perception of a certain thing.

"Handing someone the water"

This metaphor is used when someone has nearly the same skills and abilities as someone else.

"Looking for the needle in the haystack"

This metaphor names a search that seems hopeless.

"Putting someone to the test"

This metaphor is used when someone asks specific and sometimes uncomfortable questions.


This metaphor has long been established in everyday language. It describes a line of people who line up in the form of a queue to wait.

"Wink with the fence post"

This metaphor indicates a clear indication.

"Old news"

This metaphor names a fact from the past that no longer has any meaning in the present.

"Doing nails with heads"

This metaphor describes a situation that is finally carried out and brought to an end.

"Raven parents"

This metaphor names parents who neglect their children.

"Drops in the ocean"

This metaphor is used to describe a small amount or a short duration.

"To be caught completely by surprise"

This metaphor expresses astonishment or surprise.

"Do not lace blinkers too tight"

This metaphor is used when someone should leave several alternatives open and keep a vision.

"To be washed with all waters"

This metaphor names someone to whom all means are right to achieve his goal.

Analyze metaphors

Analyze metaphors

When analyzing a text, metaphors can prove to be very helpful - to better understand the text and maybe even the Key message of the text capture. Among other things, you should pay attention to the meaning of the metaphor, i.e. find out its exact meaning. In addition, you should consider how it can be interpreted in the context of the text and how it can be combined with other rhetorical means to form a larger whole. Perhaps other rhetorical devices such as comparisons, anaphors, and allegories are used to say the same thing, or perhaps a specific one is used symbolism through the text.

Example: "While she was flying out of school in a high arc, her parents were amazed."

In this example, metaphors can be found in both parts of the sentence, namely on the one hand "flying in a high arc out of school" and on the other hand "falling out of the clouds". You could interpret the metaphors in relation to the symbolism “sky” or “air”, as both a metaphor with the verb “to fly” and a metaphor with the noun “clouds”, both of which fit the symbolism mentioned would. To make sure that this is also the case Author's intention you should examine the text for other rhetorical means that have the same symbolism.

It is also advisable to use the Purpose of a particular metaphor to examine closely. Why is the metaphor used exactly at this point in the text? And why does the author even use a metaphor to express the facts? There are many reasons for using a metaphor:

  • It exists no own word for the thing described, for example "bottleneck".
  • The normal idiom is considered to be offensive or is negatively affected.
  • An abstract state of affairs can be made using a metaphor more accurate be expressed.
  • One property is said to be special highlighted such as slowness at "snail pace".

In some cases, however, authors make extra special use enigmatic metaphorsthat leave a lot of room for interpretation. In this way, everyone can interpret the text individually. Life experience, background information on the author and the epoch and a good imagination can help you with the interpretation.

Metaphors using the example of "The Erlkönig"

Metaphors using the example of "The Erlkönig"

The ballad “Der Erlkönig” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe from 1782 is one of Goethe's most famous works. Here can the entire text be interpreted metaphorically, since not only individual expressions can be interpreted as metaphors, but the entire framework with the Erlkönig as the personified death.

Throughout the entire ballad, the feverish child sees him in all sorts of forms and events approaching death in the form of the Erlkönig. While the Erlkönig tries to persuade the child to come to him with temptations at the beginning, he threatens violence towards the end. With the change of the Erlkönig, the child's emotional world also changes. If it is initially still fascinated by the Erlkönig, it eventually reacts with fear to the gloomy atmosphere that surrounds the Erlkönig. Only the father can withdraw from the Erlkönig and remains in reality.

In addition to the ongoing metaphor of the Erlkönig as death, there are numerous other metaphors in the poem that you can continue to interpret and interpret separately. They are marked in bold in the following ballad. Although some examples make sense literally, they leave room for further interpretations.

The Erlkönig

Who rides so late through night and wind?
It is the father with his child;
He's got the boy in his arms
He'll take hold of him safely, he'll keep him warm.

My son, what are you hiding your face so anxiously? -
Father, do not you see the Erlking?
The Erlenkönig with Kron' and tail? –
My son, it's a streak of fog. -

“You dear child, come, go with me!
At all I play nice games with you;
Some' colorful flowers are on the beach,
My mother has many a golden robe.“ –

My father, my father, and don't you hear
What Erlenkönig quietly promises me? -
Be quiet, stay calm, my child;
The wind rustles in dry leaves. -

“Do you want to go with me, fine boy?
My daughters should wait for you beautifully;
My daughters lead the nightly ranks
And weigh and dance and sing you in.“ –

My father, my father, and don't you see there
Erlkönig's daughters in the dark place? -
My son, my son, I see it exactly:
The old willows seem so gray. -

“I love you, your beautiful figure appeals to me;
And if you are not willing, I will need force. "-
My father, my father, now he's touching me!
Erlkönig hurt me! -

The father is terrified; he rides swiftly,
He holds the groaning child in his arms
Reaches the court with great difficulty;
In his arms the child was dead.

(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Metaphors in Storm's poem "The City"

Poems in particular often have a particularly graphic language. In the first stanza of Theodor Storm's poem “Die Stadt” from 1852 there are already numerous metaphors that together form one gloomy and desolate mood and offer a lot of room for interpretation. The pictorial and metaphorical passages are again marked in bold in this example. You can find more poems here.

The town

At the gray Beach, on gray sea
And to the side lies the city;
The fog weighs heavily on the roofs,
And the sea roars through the silence
Monotonous around the city.

(Theodor Storm)

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