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Personification Definition & examples

It is figure in which abstract ideas are invested with personality and both inanimate objects and abstract ideas are endowed with the attributes of living beings. ' By this figure ', Nesfield explains, 'we ascribe intelligence and personality to inanimate things '. In this figure the personified idea or object is mostly written with a capital letter.

There is an instinct in man's nature which,  particularly ' in moods of intense feeling or exalted imagination ', urges him to believe that inanimate objects  or even abstract ideas are endowed with sensibility,  and that they can think,  feel and act like living beings. This attribution of qualities and feelings of living beings to both inanimate objects and abstract ideas or ascription of personality to abstract ideas is known as Personification. 

In the statement 'Fortune is merry ' we ger an example of personification. Here an abstract idea ('Fortune ') is represented  as a merry person,  i.e.., a sign of personality (i.e., 'merry') is ascribed to it. Again,  in the statement 'Let the floods clap their hands ' we get another instance of personification. Here inanimate objects ('floods') are endowed with human attributes (i.e., the capacity to clap hands to express rejoicing). In another example 'Opportunity knocks at the door but once' we find that an abstract idea ('Opportunity ') is endowed with a personal attribute (i.e., the capacity to knock at the door).

The chief characteristics of this figure are the following :

(i)

Only inanimate  objects (of nature)  and abstract ideas are taken into consideration. 

(ii)

The abstract idea is endowed with the personality of a living beings. 

(iii) 

Both the inanimate object and the abstract idea are invested with the attributes of living beings (i.e.., qualities as well as the power to think, feel and act).

(iv)

All personification are a special class metaphors since in them personal attributes are ascribed or shifted to inanimate objects or abstract ideas.


Examples:

(a)

Fear at my heart,  as at a cup

My life-blood seemed to sip (Coleridge) 

(b)

Great pines groan aghast (Shelley)

(c)

And Melancholy marked hin for him own (Gray)

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