Definition of Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison, showing similarities between two different things. Unlike a metaphor, a simile draws resemblance with the help of the words “like” or “as”. Therefore, it is a direct comparison.
We can find simile examples in our daily speech. We often hear comments like “John is as slow as a snail.” Snails are notorious for their slow pace and here the slowness of John is compared to that of a snail. The use of “as” in the example helps to draw the resemblance. Some more examples of common similes are given below.
Common Examples of Simile
- Our soldiers are as brave as lions.
- Her cheeks are red like a rose.
- He is as funny as a monkey.
- The water well was as dry as a bone.
- He is as cunning as a fox.
Simile inputs vividness into what we say. Authors and poets utilize comparisons to convey their sentiments and thoughts through vivid word pictures like a simile.
Examples of Simile in Literature
Written by Joseph Conrad,
“I would have given anything for the power to soothe her frail soul, tormenting itself in its invincible ignorance like a small bird beating about the cruel wires of a cage.”
The lines have been taken from Lord Jim. The helplessness of the soul is being compared with a bird in a cage beating itself against the merciless wires of the cage, to be free.
In her novel To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf compares the velocity of her thoughts about the two men with that of spoken words.
“. . . impressions poured in upon her of those two men, and to follow her thought was like following a voice which speaks too quickly to be taken down by one’s pencil . . .”
She says both are difficult to follow and cannot be copied in words by a pencil.
Taken from a short story Lolita written by Vladimir Nabokov,
“Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa.”
This simile produces a humorous effect by comparing old women leaning on walking sticks with the ancient leaning tower of Pisa.
Robert Burns uses a simile to describe the beauty of his beloved.
“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly played in tune.”
He says that his love is a fresh red rose that blossoms in the spring.
Taken from the poem the Daffodils.
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
that floats on high o’er vales and hills.”
The poet envisions himself as a free lone cloud that floats in a blue sky above valleys and the mountains. By choosing this simile, Wordsworth describes his loneliness.
A significant thing to consider here is that at times simile is drawn without using “as” or “like”. Consider the following example,
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate”
(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18)
In the above example, we see a comparison being drawn between the poet’s darling and “a summer’s day” not using “as” or “like”. However, it is not a metaphor. The use of the word “compare” makes the comparison a simile.
Function of Simile
From the above discussion, we can infer the function of similes both in our everyday life as well as in literature. Using similes attracts the attention and appeals directly to the senses of listeners or readers encouraging their imagination to comprehend what is being communicated. In addition, it inspires life-like quality in our daily talks and in the characters of fiction or poetry. Simile allows readers to relate the feelings of a writer or a poet to their personal experiences. Therefore, the use of similes makes it easier for the readers to understand the subject matter of a literary text, which may have been otherwise too demanding to be comprehended. Like metaphors, similes also offer variety in our ways of thinking and offers new perspectives of viewing the world.