I stumbled upon something recently that I’d never heard of before. As I was examining symbols in literature, it seemed fitting to add it to the rest. You can’t leave the topic of allegory without touching upon the Extended Metaphor.
In Gerard Steen’s Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage: A Methodological Analysis of Theory and Research, he describes it thus:
“Allegory is often described as extended metaphor, but the description is only acceptable if ‘extended’ refers to the linguistic expression while ‘metaphor’ refers to the conceptual structure.”
Maybe it’s too early, but I read that explanation and my mind still goes huh? Then I found another explanation and understood.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses two very different concepts, or two concepts that are not connected in any way, to draw a comparison between the two.
This explanation went on to use the moon to illustrate the broader concept of the extended metaphor:
“One can compare one’s temperament to the moon–and then describe certain qualities of the moon such as pale, bright etc to describe their mood. In this case, the moon and one’s temperament are in no way connected, but a connect is made by merging the two completely different concepts.
Take the same example forward to understand what an extended metaphor is. When the moon and one’s temperament are continued to be compared throughout the work of art, and are not simply limited to a single line, it becomes an example of an extended metaphor. In this example, the different qualities of the moon, like the shape, color or the brightness, and the different qualities of a person’s life are used to draw a parallel–in that way it becomes an extended metaphor.”
Ooh I get it. I’ve seen this symbolic word-dance before in books I’ve read, especially in poetry. It’s a long wandering babble of creative comparison that somehow makes sense in the end. Shakespeare did it all the time. So did Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost.
Fog by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes in on little cat feet.
It sits looking over the harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then, moves on.
Hope by Emily Dickinson
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
😀 They were all painting with words. How else can you describe it? Alone, words are humble symbols for thought. To be able to string them together to create such vivid images is one thing, but to convey broader or deeper meaning in the reader’s mind with precise metaphor is quite another. It truly is a gift, and something to aspire to!
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