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Definition: A simile is a comparison of two things using "like" or "as." Like metaphors, similes are a type of figurative language.

In "Examples of Metaphors," we discussed how Raymond Chandler's similes and metaphors often support larger themes in his book The Long Goodbye, as in:

  • "And his eyes were like holes poked in a snowbank."
  • "His hair was as smooth as a bird's breast."
The bird simile in the second example also points to the bird imagery that runs through the novel. The snowbank simile corresponds with the theme of emptiness, which also pervades the book.

Examples:
For another example, from a very different kind of writer, we can turn to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty: "Windshields flashed into her eyes like light through tears." Read more on how Welty uses figurative language, like metaphors and similes, to avoid sentimentality in The Optimist's Daughter.

To learn more about similes or to test your knowledge, take this figurative language quiz.

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