BlogEnglishLiterary Technique: Personification and Its Effect

Literary Technique: Personification and Its Effect

Reading a book - Personification Effect

Familiar with personification but aren’t too sure what its effect is when used within a text?

Don’t stress! We’ll walk you through what this literary technique is, various examples and how to analyse it in your essays.

Check it out!

What is personification and its effect?
Examples of Personification
Why is personification used?
How to Analyse Personification and Its Effect

What is personification and its effect?

Hinted at in the name, personification refers to a technique through which non-human objects are attributed human characteristics, therefore appearing to have life and/or feelings.

In effect, personification adds life, energy, and an element of relatability to things that would otherwise be lifeless. This technique is utilised heavily in poetry, and features commonly in figurative descriptive language. 

Examples of Personification

Lord of The Rings Ent

Ent from Lord of the Rings

Common Idioms

For instance, New York is considered “the city that never sleeps”, and it’s often said that “actions speak louder than words”. 

T. S. Eliot, Preludes 

“And now a gusty shower wraps / The grimy scraps / Of withered leaves about your feet”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Occasionally a line of grey cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest.”

Why is personification used and what are the effects of its use?

There are several reasons a composer may utilise personification.

Firstly, personification allows complex concepts to be explored more simply through metaphor and analogy. In doing so, an author can explain the complexities of their narrative worlds in a way that the audience understands, by relating to the material in front of them.

Personification is also often used by composers to enhance the imagery and engagement of their texts, and to set the scene of a story.

Depending on how personification is used, objects can become intrinsic parts of the atmosphere of a text; for instance, an eerie moving house might indicate haunting and horror, while dancing daffodils are reminiscent of good tidings and happiness. 

How can you analyse personification and its effect?

When analysing personification, it’s a good idea to investigate:

#1: The personification itself

Which object is being personified? Which human qualities is it imbued with?

These two questions will allow you to understand to what end the personification has been used, and furthermore how the personification affects the story (i.e. how it sets the scene or adds to an atmosphere).

#2: The author’s purpose

why did the author choose to personify the object, in that way? What effect does it have on the narrative? What effect does it have on you as a reader?

Identifying the answers to these questions underpins your analysis of personification in a text — you must explain why an author made the choice. 

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Rujuta Banhatti is currently a third year Law/International Studies student at UNSW. As a Content Writer at Art of Smart, she is super keen to be able to write (read: academically rant) about texts that she’s absolutely loved, both at school and in general.

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