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personification

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Rocky mountain with angry face, Yemen
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Definition:

Personification is a figure of speech in which objects or nonhuman organisms are given human characteristics.

We find personification in movies for children all the time: we wouldn't have Lassie or Winn Dixie without it. However, it occurs in literature for adults as well. My handy Benét's Reader's Encyclopedia explains that allegories like Pilgrim's Progress use it, personifying emotions such as despair. It also cites Yeats's "Ode to a Grecian Urn" as an example. For instance, Yeats describes the urn as an "unravished bride of quietness," attributing the characteristics of a new bride to the urn.

Finally, we can find many examples of personified buildings. If we write, "The old mansion glowered down at us from the top of the hill," we're using personification. A building can't glower: it's an object. But an old, dilapidated building feels threatening and forbidding in the same way that an angry person does.

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