A metaphor is when a word or phrase for one thing is used in place of another in order to make a comparison between two unlike things and suggest a similarity.
Unless you're at the zoo, the elephant in the room is a metaphor.
Have you ever looked outside and immediately thought, “It’s raining cats and dogs out there” or met someone with a bad attitude who you decide must have a heart of stone? Then you’ve also met a metaphor. A metaphor is when a word or phrase for one thing is used in place of another in order to make a comparison between two unlike things and suggest a similarity. Obviously you know that it’s not possible for cats and dogs to fall out of the sky or for someone to literally have a heart made of stone (unless that someone is one of the trolls from Frozen). Even so, you automatically know what these phrases mean because you understand the comparisons being made. The image of cats and dogs hurtling down from above is used to signify the craziness of the weather and a stone heart relates to someone being cold and unfeeling. Hold up, isn’t the whole comparison thing the same as a simile? Nope, but they’re close! The easiest way to tell a simile apart from a metaphor is that similes use the words “like” or “as” to compare two things, and metaphors do not. For example, a simile could be “Her eyes shone as brightly as the sun” while the metaphor version would translate to “Her eyes were sunshine.” Got it? Good.
Now try to scope out the comparisons being made in these poems:
BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
BY GWENDOLYN BROOKS
And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?
Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?
Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.
The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.