Implied Metaphor

Implied Metaphor Definition

Implied Metaphor is a literary device used in prose and poetry to compare two unlikely things, with common characteristics without mentioning one of the objects of comparison. It is implied in the texts to make imagery rich and effective and also to make subjects relatable and understandable to the readers. In this sense, it enables them to grasp the complex phenomenon discussed in the text. Moreover, the appropriate use of implied metaphor appeals to the sense of hearing and makes readers comprehend what is being communicated to them.

Implied Metaphor is a phrase of two words: implied and metaphor. Implied means not directly expressed and a metaphor means a word or a phrase used for comparing different objects but they are not literally applicable.

Examples Implied Metaphor from Literature

Example #1

I Know Why the Caged Birds Sings by Maya Angelou

But a bird that stalks
Down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through
His bars of rage
His wings are clipped and
His feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
With a fearful trill
Of things unknown
But longed for still
And his tune is heard
On the distant hill
For the caged bird
Sings of freedom.

The poem exhibits racial segregation and social discrimination prevalent against the black community in American society.  She has used two metaphors in the poem; the first metaphor is of the “free bird” that is for the white people, while the “caged bird” is the metaphor of African American people and their detention in the social norms. Using this implied metaphor of bird, Maya Angelou explores the ideas of freedom, equality, and justice in the text. She skilfully contrasts the freedom of the free bird and the alienation and captivity of the caged bird by using this metaphor.

Example #2

She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron

“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.”

The poem offers a noticeable description of a glamorous woman, whom the speaker seems familiar with. It deals with a woman’s exceptional external and internal beauty which provides a clue to her decent nature. Byron has artistically used some metaphors in the poem to make it relatable to the readers. He has used implied metaphors in the lines eleven and twelve, “Where thoughts serenely sweet express, How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.” Here, he compares thoughts with people and “dwelling place” with a mind. Similarly, “Raven Trees” is the metaphor of the dark hair of the lady that add charm to her beauty.

Example #3

Lights Out by Edward Thomas

“I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn’s first crack,
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink.”

The poet compares sleep with a dark forest, where sooner or later, everyone may eventually lose their direction. He believes that it is a place where every human emotion such as love, ambitions, and affection lose their charm. However, the path that leads us to this destination is mysterious and oblique, yet it offers immense pleasure and calmness to its travelers. Therefore, the one who is attracted to it willingly obeys to what it says. By implying the metaphor of sleep, the poet has beautifully discussed the phenomenon of inevitable death. The poet has not mentioned the other object of comparison that is death.

Example #4

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

‘Fire and Ice’ explores how the world would end in destruction. It presents two different schools of thoughts; some people believe that the world will end in a fire while some say that it will end in ice. To him, if the world will be destroyed twice, ice would be more damaging than fire. Frost has used many implied metaphors in the poem to express his ideas. For example, “fire” stands for the desires and “ice” represents hate. Similarly, the destruction of the world is the metaphor for the end of relationships. It is through the appropriate use of these implied metaphors that he has made the poem thought-provoking for the readers.

Functions of Implied Metaphor

An implied metaphor is a highly useful literary device that allows the authors to present unfamiliar ideas to help readers understand the deeper and hidden meanings. It broadens their imaginations and helps to grasp new ideas. Thus, it acts as a useful tool that allows the writers to present their ideas, thoughts, and imagination differently and appealingly.