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Authors can use any variety of techniques to hold the attention of their readers. One such technique is the use of figures of speech, which are ways of saying something other than in the ordinary or literal way. There are many different figures of speech. In this article, we'll look at personification.

What is personification?

Personification is a type of comparison in which a human quality is assigned to something non-human, such as an object or an abstract concept. Human qualities include feelings and characteristics that only humans can have. Let's look at some examples.


Examples of personification in everyday life include using a human word or name or a personal pronoun to refer to an animal, a car, a ship, a hurricane or some other object or event.

My brother just bought an all-in-one smoker, grill and barbecue. He wants me to come over to his house to take a look at his "new baby."

Hurricane Dean passed over Newfoundland on August 8, 1989.

Look at my new car. She's a beauty, isn't she?

You can also create personification when you make an object or natural phenomenon the subject of a verb that is usually assigned to a person.

The winter frost painted a glistening scene on my bedroom window.

When I was a little girl, I thought the moon followed me around at night as I walked with my mother.

The wind whispered through the trees.

Why use personification?

Use personification to enliven your writing. Personification will help you capture your readers' attention because they can more easily relate to what you have written and are likely to feel more interest.

Examples of personification in Canadian literature

"There is something subversive about this garden of Serena's, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently…Light pours down upon it from the sun, true, but also heat rises, from the flowers themselves, you can feel it: like holding your hand an inch above an arm, a shoulder. It breathes, in the warmth, breathing itself in."

—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

"…the cavernous hall of meat was dark and forbidding, with huge, wicked-looking meat hooks hanging from the ceiling (some empty, some with sides of beef—the empty ones more threatening)….In the dim light and smelly air abuzz with bold and bellicose flies, everything acquired a menacing edge…"

—Rohinton Mistry, Such a Long Journey

"Demented wind fled keening past the house: a wail through the eaves that died every minute or two."

—Sinclair Ross, "The Lamp at Noon"

"I hied me away to the woods—away back into the sun-washed alleys carpeted with fallen gold and glades where the moss is green and vivid yet. The woods are getting ready to sleep—they are not yet asleep but they are disrobing and are having all sorts of little bed-time conferences and whisperings and good-nights."

—L. M. Montgomery, The Green Gables Letters

"O! drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
Sleep, sleep,
By your mountain steep,
Or down where the prairie grasses sweep!
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings."

—E. Pauline Johnson, "The Song My Paddle Sings"

"Who is that in the tall grasses running
Beside her, near the water?
She can not see there
Time that pursued her
In the deep grasses so fast
And faster
And caught her
My foolish daughter."

—Irving Layton, "Song for Naomi"

"One night we heard [Death's] footfall—one September night—
In the outskirts of a village near the sea.
There was a moment when the storm
Delayed its fist
, when the surf fell
Like velvet on the rocks—a moment only;
The strangest lull we ever knew!
A sudden truce among the oaks
Released their fratricidal arms;
The poplars straightened to attention

As the winds stopped to listen
To the sound of a motor drone—
And then the drone was still."

—E. J. Pratt, "Come Away, Death"