personification

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PERSONIFICATION. In RHETORIC, discourse in which animals, plants, elements of nature, and abstract ideas are given human attributes: ‘bask in Heaven's blue smile’ (Shelley). It has been regarded as both a figure in its own right and as an aspect of METAPHOR in which non-human is identified with human: ‘Life can play some nasty tricks’. It is common in VERSE: ‘Slowly, silently, now the moon / Walks the night in her silver shoon’ ( Walter de la Mare, ‘Silver’, 1913). The representation of the moon as female is similar to the application of she to ships, cats, countries, and certain abstractions: ‘He seems to want to destroy poetry as poetry, to exclude her as a vehicle of communication’ ( Eric A. Havelock, Preface to Plato, 1963).

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per·son·i·fi·ca·tion / pərˌsänəfiˈkāshən/ • n. the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form. ∎  a figure intended to represent an abstract quality: the design on the franc shows Marianne, the personification of the French republic. ∎  [in sing.] a person, animal, or object regarded as representing or embodying a quality, concept, or thing: he was the very personification of British pluck and diplomacy.

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personification, figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstract ideas are endowed with human qualities, e.g., allegorical morality plays where characters include Good Deeds, Beauty, and Death. John Ruskin termed sentimentalized, exaggerated personification the "pathetic fallacy." See also allegory; apostrophe; metonymy.

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personification. Representation of a human figure with attributes to suggest an abstraction, such as Hope with Anchor. Cesare Ripa's Iconologia (1593) was an important source-book for personification.

Bibliography

Lampugnani (ed.) & Dinsmoor (1986)