|• What is a ‘figure of speech’?|
|• What are metaphors and how do they work?|
|• How do they affect us?|
When you study a literary text, you often concentrate on the way it uses language, particularly ‘figures of speech’. It is sometimes assumed that these figures of speech, and metaphors particularly, are just ornaments, there to decorate the texts and somehow show an author’s skill. But they are much more important than this: they convey meaning. So just what is a figure of speech and how do they work?
As a rule of thumb, a figure of speech is the use of words or a phrase in a way that isn’t strictly true; the words have been ‘turned away’ from their literal sense and don’t mean what a dictionary might say they mean. The technical term for figurative uses of language clearly reflects this: figures of speech of all kinds are called tropes, a term originating from the ancient Greek word tropos, meaning ‘turn,