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Hyperbole Definition & examples

It is a figure in which a deliberate overstatement is made for emphasis. It is also known as Exaggeration. 

In this figure always something more, whether in favour of or against a person or thing,  is said. In it the exaggeration is made for emphasis,  not for deception. It is used either for serious or comic effect.

There is a tendency in us to exaggerate things. We are not satisfied simply by describing things as they are. When we like a thing,  we praise it too high,  and if we dislike it,  we usually paint it most unfavorably. This results in the use of hyperboles which are, truly speaking, nothing but exaggerated statements. Thus, in the sentence 'He offers you a thousand regrets', we get an example of hyperbole,  for here only a regret is,  meant,  though a thousand regrets are told. This figure is used for various purposes. For a serious purpose the following may be cited:


Not poppy nor mandragora

Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,  

Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep

Which thou ow'dst yesterday (Shakespeare)


For a comic purpose the following may be quoted:

The English gain two hours a day by clipping their words (Voltaire)

For the expression of a strong passion we may point out the following :


To see her is but to love her,

And love but her for ever. (Burns)


It should be noted that its contrary figure is Meiosis which consists in deliberate understatement. 

The chief characteristics of Hyperbole are given below:

(i)

A thing or a person is not presented in the normal state.

(ii)

Such things are magnified beyond their natural bounds.

(iii)

The exaggeration occurs under the influence of some overpowering feeling. 

(iv)

Despite overstatement of expression,  it is not to be taken too literally. 


Examples:

(i)

This my hand will rather

The multitudinous seas incarnadine 

Making the green one red (Shakespeare) 

(ii)

Strains that might create a soul

Under the ribs of death ( Milton)


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