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It is a figure in which a comparison between two different thing a is implied but not clearly stated.

Interpretation :

Before explaining the nature of metaphor. we should be acquainted with two terms tenor and vehicle which  a Richards used in The philosophy of Rhetoric Tenor is the subject which the vehicle illustrates or illuminates while vehicle carries the metaphoric word itself In the example Life s but a walking shadow the word Life is the tenor of the metaphor and walking shadow is the vehicle.

In the sentence, He is the pillar of the state we notice that a comparison  has been made between two different objects He (tenor) and pillar (vehicle) and it is implied not clearly expressed.

With the help of such words as like so such as etc Since the above sentence is an example of metaphor it is clear to us that a metaphor differs from a simile only in from not in substance. We realize that in simile the compared objects are kept distinct both in thought and expression while in metaphor they are kept distinct in thought only and not in expression In the above example we further observe the resemblance between the two objects is felt to be so close in the speaker a mind that one thing is as it were identified with the other one thing (He) is called or described by the name of another (pillar) In another example  He has a stony heart ; we note that heart identified with stone.

Thus in the first  variety of metaphor both the tenor and the vehicle are present  and the one is as it were identified  with the other.

Let us take another example : The ship ploughs the sea Here we notice a wolf (ploughs) which is applied to an object (ship) to which it is not literally applicable We further notice that ploughs comes from the noun plough an object to which the other  object ship may be compared their point of comparison being the ability to force a way through The comparison between ship and plough is however implied not formally expressed In the above example we observe two things :(a) The tenor (ship) is clearly present and the vehicle two things : (a) The tenor (ship) is clearly present and the vehicle (plough) is n
masked its presence is to be inferred from the verbal context (ploughs)  and (b)  a word (ploughs) is transferred from the object (plough) to which it properly belongs to another (ship).

Thus in the second variety of metaphor both the tenor and the vehicle are present one distinctly present and the other masked and a word which properly belongs to one object is transferred to another in such a way that a comparison between the objects is implied but not explicitly stated.

Let us take another example : His rash policy let loose the hounds of war Here a word (hounds) is used to indicate some thing (soldiers) different from its literal meaning (dogs) Thus here we get an instance where a word is applied not in its literal but figurative or symbolic sense In the above case hounds stands for soldiers their common quality being the capacity to chase and attack In another example He is fond of blowing his own trumpet  the vehicle (trumpet) is used in a figurative sense In the above two cases the tenor (policy and He) is present though in the former instance the vehicle (soldiers) is absent while in the latter it is present Sometimes as in A rolling stone gathers no moss ; the whole expression may be figurative. In this case the tenor (rolling stone) drifts towards its vehicle a person who changes occupation frequently and another tenor (moss) towards its vehicle prosperity Here only the tenor is present but the vehicle is absent It is important to note that in such a case there is no contextual hint to guide us only our instinct and experience can help us in this regard otherwise there is nothing to prevent it from being taken in its literal sense.

Thus in the third variety of metaphor the tenor is always present though the vehicle may or may not be present and words are used only in a figurative sense.

The chief characteristics of this figure are given below :

(i) One thing is compared to a different thing

(ii) The other thing may be  clearly present masked or totally absent

(iii) The comparison is implied not clearly pointed out.


A metaphor  may take the form of a nour,  a verb,  or an adjective,  as the following examples show 


(i) He is the only hope of his family
(ii) Revenge is a kind of wild justice
(iii) She is a fen of stagnant waters


(i) He failed to bridle his passions
(ii) The weaves thundered on the shore
(iii) I drank delight of battle with my peers. 


(i) A dead silence prevailed there
(ii) He missed a golden opportunity
(iii) His lame excuse will move none


Metaphor are of various kinds,  and they are discussed below:

A simile or Regular Metaphor is one in which an object is compared to another in an implied way 

(i) This rudeness is a sauce to his good wit
(ii) My preceptor is my light

A common or Decayed Metaphor is one with which we are so familiar that we are hardly conscious of its presence when we use it in our everyday speech, 

a ray of hope
a gleam of delight 
dark mystery 
fiery speech 
darkness of ignorance 

A Sustained Metaphor  is one in which a single idea is developed through a number of metaphors 

(i) An aged man is but a paltry  thing
A tattered coat upon a stick ( Yeats)
(ii) Life is but a walking shadow,  a poor player. (Shakespeare) 

A Mixed Metaphor is one in which occurs the inappropriate and faulty use of a number of metaphors drawn from different sources to refer to the one and the same thing. It often arises from insensitiveness to the literal meaning of words. It is also called Confused Metaphor because in it successive images so closely follow one another that the mind is confused by the overlapping images

Was the hope drank
Wherein you dressed yourself? (Shakespeare) 
[ Here hope is first compared to a drunkard and then to a dress.]

A Strained Metaphor one from of mixed Metaphor,  is one in which the point of resemblance is generally forced and far-fetched. It also includes a large amount of irrelevant details.  


Here lay Duncan. 
His silver skin laced with his golden blood (Shakespeare) 
[ Here the resemblance of blood to gold (or golden lace) is far-fetched ]


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