What I mean by "cinematographic metaphor" is that, instead of expressing metaphors using words, you use images that are imprinted in your mind through descriptions in a novel.

Here's what I mean:

We often say that vengeance is an empty thing. So we could have a scene describing someone drinking alcohol from a glass and drinking it all, and show that the glass is left empty like the person who consummated the vengeance. Is this a thing?

Here's what it could look like:

Matthew sat alone in the room. It was midnight. He grabbed a glass of vodka. The ice had long melted away. He drank it all, and pounded the glass onto his desk. The glass, now empty, was sitting in the middle of the desk. The upper part was now broken and reflected his twisted visage.

2 Answers 2


Yes. Evoking visuals as metaphors in a way that leaves out verbal explanations of meaning is part and parcel of many (if not most) novels.

Your example doesn't quite do this as you state, since it tells the reader what to think vs simply using the empty glass as a metaphor for the character's state of mind. I might change it to:

It was midnight. Matthew sat alone. The ice in his glass of vodka had long melted away. He gulped it and pounded the glass onto his desk. He let his breath out all at once and leaned back in his chair, staring at the glass in the middle of the desk, now empty and broken.

  • Is there a name to this technique/method? Is it even a figure of speech? I don't think it's an allegory though.
    – Sayaman
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 19:01
  • 1
    Being decades removed from English class, I admit I had to go look these up. Allegory is when an entire narrative uses symbols or metaphors in a unified way to express an idea. Symbolism is when an object stands for something else. A metaphor is a word or phrase that represents an idea. The OP's example is symbolism. @repomonster
    – Cyn
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 19:10
  • I guess allegory and metaphors are figure of speech that fall under the broader category of symbolism then.
    – Sayaman
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 21:25

I suspect you mean allegory. It is an ancient device that can be traced back to Homer.

It allows for a deeper meaning to be inserted without necessarily announcing it.

In the novel The Leopard, there is a woman who comes to the MC and he only realizes too late that she is death. He has come to enjoy her visits and leaves his life calmly.

Sometimes readers ascribe a deeper meaning to something that the author never intended. Whether that is a triumph or a problem tends to depend on the circumstances.

Allegory can add levels of depth and dimension to a work that will reward those who read it a fourth time. Each time I read War & Peace, I find something different, some small detail I missed before.

Your example seems the type that might be missed on a first read, but noticed later.

  • Is it really an allegory though? Because in movies like "The Shining" it's called symbolism or visual symbolism.
    – Sayaman
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 12:59
  • 1
    See my comment on my answer.
    – Cyn
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 19:12

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