Metaphor and Dialectics as Literary Devices and Communicative Tools

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Odum, ikechukwu A.
B.a, m.a, PGD (sc/antr), Mnipr

Metaphor as a Literary Device
The classical Greek philosopher, Aristotle declared metaphor one of the highest achievements of poetic style. According to him, “it is the mark of genius – for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances …” (Dukore 50). Our literary world especially, the African literary world is pervaded with metaphors. Metaphor has become an indispensable part of our literary world that recent research into our everyday literary life shows that we use four metaphors per minute (Tompkins and Lawley 1). This statistic could come as a surprise because metaphor has become much fundamental in literature that out of the vast majority of metaphors we use, only the more obvious ones register in our minds.

As a literary device, metaphor is both descriptive and prescriptive. It is descriptive in the sense that the essence of a metaphor is understanding and experiencing or describing one kind of thing in terms of another (Lawley and Tompkins 1). Through this use of metaphor as a literal description of unconscious processing, it becomes a gateway to increased awareness, understanding and change. Thus, metaphor specifies and/or constrains our ways of thinking about the original experience thereby invariably influencing the meaning and importance we attach to the original experience, the way it fits with other experiences, and the actions we take as a result hence, its prescriptive essence.

As a literary device also, Lawley and Tompkins observe that metaphor is “an active process which is at the very heart of understanding ourselves, others and the world around us” (1); the very essence of literature. To Lawley and Tompkins also metaphor need not be limited to verbal expressions. It can include: Any expression or thing that is symbolic for a person, be that non verbal behaviour self-produced art, an item in the environment or an imaginative representation. In other words, whatever a person says, sees, hears, feels or does, as well as what they imagine, can be used to produce, comprehend and reason through metaphor (2).

From the foregoing, it will be observed that the use of metaphor as a literary device is something optional that makes a good literary work. Levy puts it more succinctly when he used this metaphor to comment on metaphor as a literary device seeing metaphor as: The icing on the cake of composition… it is not essential, but … it has the power to make it special. As with icing, metaphor requires careful handling: used sparingly, it makes a sweet impression, spread too thickly; on the other hand, it is not just sweetening, but sickening (182).

The Communicative Value of Metaphor
Gasset summarizes metaphor as “probably the most fertile power possessed by man” (19). Metaphors are powerful communicative devices. The use of metaphors, like other figurative devices, says a lot about the writer’s immediate environment. Metaphor reveals much about the writers’ perception of and attitude towards their environment, their point of view and ideological stance. Metaphor makes a reader feel with his senses by applying directly to the sensory experience he has felt in the past with one object to a new object. Ipso facto, metaphors are so emotionally compelling that one responds to them even if one is not conscious of their use. The communicative values of metaphor could be summed up to include: -The expansion of the reach of language.

-To make the audience visualize things that normally they
would only think.
-Metaphor helps make the audience share in the emotions
and attitudes of the writer.
-Metaphor also helps in the understanding of the world and circumstances surrounding the writer’s work. To achieve these communicative values, certain things should be taken into cognizance. There is need to use fresh metaphors....
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