My friends talk about a few phrases in a book we read recently, as personification. I don't understand what it is. What is personification?
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Personification is when non-living things, or abstract ideas, are written of as if they were living beings, or particularly, given human qualities. "The sea crashed angrily against the shore." is a personification. The sea is not alive, and has no emotions. The reader is beign invited to view the sea, or perhaps the surf, as if it were a person, or at least a living being, and attribute emotion to it. This is a special case of a metaphor and in this cane is also an instance of the pathetic fallacy (assigning feeling to unfeeling nature).
A personification can be an extended passage, or even an entire work, although rarely. One could arge that the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths are extended personifications of natural forces into gods and other supernatural characters.
The term "Personification" can also be used to describe a situation in which human characteristics are attributed to a non-human, but living, being. The Incredible Journey , in which for much of the book the VP characters are two dogs and a cat, is essentially one long personification. So is Jack London's White Fang and Paul Gallico's The Three Lives of Thomasina. Ursula LeGuin's story, "The Direction of the Road" is narrated by an oak tree.
If the suggestion is being made that the object really is alive and has the characteristics described, it is not a personification. A work of science fiction in which a sapient but very non-human character appears is not a personification. Neither would a work be in which it was seriously suggested that the earth was really a living and feeling being, as is done in sections of F. Paul Wilson's "Adversary cycle"