A simile is a figure of speech in which two things are compared, normally in a way that is unexpected or unusual. Most commonly this technique is achieved by saying something is like another thing.
Similes are often confused with metaphors. A simile is more comparative, with words such as “like” or “as” whereas a metaphor is more definite, with a description that something “is” another.
Why use a Simile?
- Providing Examples: Similes are a great way of providing examples to a reader, helping them understand thoughts and feelings associated with situations, which they may not necessarily be familiar with.
- Placing Emphasis: By using this poetic device, poets are able to make a specific line or section of the poem more memorable and significant. This is particularly effective in poems when there is an overall lack of poetic devices, which makes this simple choice stand out further.
- Creating Links: The ability to compare anything by using a simile is important because it enables the poet to create a link that may not otherwise have been considered. It can also help to link ideas throughout a poem, which otherwise would have been distinct and less effective.
Examples of Similes
Elizabeth Jennings uses a variety of similes in ‘One Flesh‘ (Love Poetry Through the Ages) to help provide imagery to the reader and aid understanding of the poem.
The breakdown of a relationship between parents is not something all readers would have experienced, and Jennings recognises this by providing similes to help communicate key thoughts and feelings. In addition, using similes rather than metaphors helps provide opportunity for readers to associate their own ideas with the poem.
tossed up like flotsam
‘The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled‘ (Poems of the Decade) by Leonita Flynn uses similes to help place emphasis on certain ideas in a poem, which is largely lacking in frequent poetic devices.
The simile is in the first stanza, which makes it noticeable to a reader and avoids it being lost in the relatively complex structure of the rest of the poem. It helps to make the reader understand the significance of travel, and both the physical and mental ‘weight’ of frequent new experiences. Some people could also see this technique as helping to make a fundamental connection between humans and the world, helping to make the poem’s message more significant.
curved under it like a meridian
Similes are frequently used in a range of poems, literature, and even in everyday language. You’ll probably have heard of some of these examples:
As big as an elephant
shine like a star
brave as a lion