Best Examples of Extended metaphors in Literature

A metaphor is the comparison of two things or ideas. The extended metaphor is that literary device in which this comparison lasts longer in a phrase, some verses, or a paragraph. Extended metaphors allow the writer to clarify an idea through its parallels. When the comparison widens it becomes more than just an alluding or passing reference. Extended metaphors make most complex ideas easy to visualize and understand. As some topics are not easy to handle, writers use extended metaphors in a satirical or comic tone to make the tone gentle for the readers. The purpose of using any literary device, including extended metaphors, is to evoke the reader’s emotions. Here are a few examples of extended metaphors in literature.

Example #1

Spoilers a head By Jordan Peele

In the 2019 domestic horror film, an affluent African-American family is terrorized by a family of twisted doppelgangers. As the story unfolds, we learn that there is an entire nation of ‘tethered’ twins who live underground — and now they’re looking to separate themselves from their above-ground counterparts

In this example, the “doppelganger and the description of underground life” here is used as a metaphor for America’s underclass, and the ignored class faces difficulties just for the comfort of the upper class.

Example #2

The Old Man and the Sea By Ernest Hemingway

Much like Santiago’s battle against his advancing age, the marlin fights for its survival, so much so that the fisherman sees himself in the fish. He recognizes its endurance and dignity. However, as hard as the marlin fights for its life, it succumbs to Santiago’s spear.

In the given example, Hemingway compares the old man, Santiago, and the marlin through an extended metaphor, which is the struggle to survive in this world with dignity.

Example #3

Romeo and Juliet By William Shakespeare 

“But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief.’

The example is known as the famous balcony scene, where Romeo is discussing the misery of rejection and Juliet has the strength to bring Romeo back to life. In this extended metaphor, Juliet is compared to the sun making the moon jealous of its brightness.

Example #4

Seize the Night By Dean Koontz

My imagination is a three-hundred-ring circus. Currently, I was in ring two hundred and ninety-nine, with elephants dancing and clowns cartwheeling and tigers leaping through rings of fire. The time had come to step back, leave the main tent, go buy some popcorn and a Coke, bliss out, cool down.

Here the narrator used an extended metaphor, comparing creativity and happiness to joy as the author lists the things available in a circus.

Example #5

The Yiddish Policeman’s union By Michael Chabon

It never takes longer than a few minutes, when they get together, for everyone to revert to the state of nature, like a party marooned by a shipwreck. That’s what a family is. Also the storm at sea, the ship, and the unknown shore. And the hats and the whiskey stills that you make out of bamboo and coconuts. And the fire that you light to keep away the beasts.

In the above example, the writer has compared ‘family’ with a ‘people are isolated in shipwreck’. Also, the difficulties to face for survival in this world are discussed through extended metaphor.

Example #6

Life on the Mississippi By Mark Twain

One day [Mr. Bixby] turned on me suddenly with this settler —
‘What is the shape of Walnut Bend?’”

“He might as well have asked me my grandmother’s opinion of protoplasm. I reflected respectfully, and then said I didn’t know it had any particular shape. My gun powdery chief went off with a bang, of course, and then went on loading and firing until he was out of adjectives.”

“I had learned long ago that he only carried just so many rounds of ammunition, and was sure to subside into a very placable and even remorseful old smooth-bore as soon as they were all gone”.

In the mentioned passage, the writer uses an extended metaphor of ‘gun powdery’, ‘firing’ and ‘ammunition’ to describe the anger of Mr. Bixby.

Example #7

The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of grey cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight. … The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and, when the drawbridge is up to let barges through, the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an hour.

The narrator describes the land covered with smoke and ashes. Here, the valley of ashes and rest of the industrial area is an extended metaphor for broken American dreams.

Example #8

To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee

Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

In this story, the author used “mockingbird and their habits” as an extended metaphor for innocence. Additionally, the whole book repeats a similar comparison of unjust appraisals and trials of an innocent persons.