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Personification is when human characteristics are given to something that is not human. While we may typically think of “not human,” or non-human, as an animal or object, personification can also apply to abstract ideas. Physical forces, like destruction or creation, can also be given human characteristics. However, we usually think of personification with objects and living organisms (such as plants or animals). When a figure or an object is given human characteristics, it is being personified.
The cat danced around the toy mouse before pouncing on it.
In this example, the personification comes from the word “danced.” Cats cannot dance in the way humans do, but we are giving a human characteristic to the cat in order to describe the way in which the cat moves around the mouse.
Scholars sometimes use the word prosopopoeia instead of personification. There is usually a slight difference in how scholars use it. Personification is used when human traits are given to anything non-human. On the other hand, prosopopoeia is more often used when the figure or thing being personified can, and usually does, speak.
While we think of personification usually with nature, personification can give human characteristics to bodies or groups of objects too. These objects could be man-made or synthetic materials. For instance, Charles Dickens often uses personification to describe and give life to his city settings. In A Tale of Two Cities, he uses personification to give life to the city of London and Paris. Since cities, which consist of groups of buildings and objects, cannot talk, Dickens describes Paris by giving the city different voices and traits.
The following statements personify objects, nature, or animals.
- The dog patiently sat at the door until he was let outside.
- The dog is given the human characteristic of patience.
- The gentle breeze swept over the field of grass.
- The breeze is given the human characteristic of mild behavior and moderation.
- The telephone ringtone cried out in the middle of the night from a late phone call.
- The phone is given the human characteristic of crying.
The following examples of personification are found in literature:
From “Blackbird” by The Beatles:
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night…”
The blackbird is given the human power of song and is described as singing.
From “Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” by William Shakespeare:
“Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;”
Shakespeare is providing two examples of personification. The first is that he gives heaven an eye. In this sonnet, Shakespeare is referring to the sun. Not only is the sun an eye on the face of heaven, giving a human body to nature, but the gold color of the sun becomes the skin of the face. Therefore, the sun is an eye to the face of the sky, and the sun also provides a gold hue to what Shakespeare is describing as the skin and body of the sky.
From A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:
“…and the roar of the city changed to this extent–that it still rolled in like muffled drums, but with the wail of voices that he knew, in the swell that rose above them.”
Dickens describes the city through the sound of wailing, making the city seem ghostly, sinister, and chaotic. The city itself cannot wail or beat drums, so Dickens uses human traits of wailing and beating drums to help give description and character to the city itself.
This bundle contains 5 ready-to-use personification worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of what personification is and how it can be used. You can use these personification worksheets in the classroom with students, or with home schooled children as well.
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Link will appear as Personification Examples and Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 10, 2017
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