Analogy: The Art of Comparing

An analogy is a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two seemingly dissimilar entities, revealing their similarities and conveying a larger point through these commonalities. Unlike simpler literary devices like metaphor and simile, an analogy not only makes a comparison but also provides additional information or context, adding depth to the comparison. This complexity makes analogy a powerful tool for enriching language and conveying intricate ideas.

Common Examples of Analogy

Analogies often take the form of word relationships that demonstrate associations between two pairs of objects or concepts, based on logic or reasoning. Typically, they are structured as "A is to B as C is to D" or "A is like B." Here are some everyday examples:

  • blue is to color as circle is to shape
  • eyes are to sight as fingers are to touch
  • cub is to bear as calf is to cow
  • sand is to beach as water is to ocean
  • glove is to hand as sock is to foot
  • ripple is to pond as wave is to ocean
  • words are to writing as notes are to music
  • fish are to aquariums as animals are to zoos
  • fingers are to snapping as hands are to clapping
  • petal is to flower as leaf is to tree

Famous Examples of Analogy

Analogy is a literary device frequently used by renowned writers and speakers to convey complex ideas. Here are some famous examples:

"That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet." (William Shakespeare)

"And I began to let him go. Hour by hour. Days into months. It was a physical sensation, like letting out the string of a kite. Except that the string was coming from my center." (Augusten Burroughs)

"It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo." (P.G. Wodehouse)

"Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum." (Mary Schmich)

"Confession is good for the soul only in the sense that a tweed coat is good for dandruff – it is a palliative rather than a remedy." (Peter De Vries)

"Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded." (Henry Kissinger)

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)

"A nation wearing atomic armor is like a knight whose armor has grown so heavy he is immobilized; he can hardly walk, hardly sit his horse, hardly think, hardly breathe. The H-bomb is an extremely effective deterrent to war, but it has little virtue as a weapon of war because it would leave the world uninhabitable." (E.B. White)

Examples of Analogy by Thomas Carlyle

The writings of Thomas Carlyle, a prominent 19th-century British writer, often featured thought-provoking analogies. Here are some examples:

"Under all speech that is good for anything, there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time."

"No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men."

"It has been well said that the highest aim in education is analogous to the highest aim in mathematics, namely, to obtain not results but powers, not particular solutions, but the means by which endless solutions may be wrought."

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books."

"Music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the infinite."

"The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong."

"Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, and its power of endurance – the cheerful man will do more in the same time, will do it better, will preserve it longer, than the sad or sullen."

"Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of man you are."

Difference Between Analogy, Metaphor, and Simile

Analogy, metaphor, and simile are all literary devices used to make comparisons, but they differ in their structure and intent:

  • Analogy: Analogy draws a comparison between two entities to reveal their similarities and convey a larger point. It provides additional information or context, making it a more complex device than metaphor and simile.
  • Metaphor: Metaphor directly states that one thing is another, using figurative language. It creates a direct comparison without the use of "like" or "as."
  • Simile: Simile uses "like" or "as" to make a comparison between two things, highlighting their similarities without directly equating them.

Here's a breakdown of these three literary devices using the same example:

Analogy: Memory is to love what the saucer is to the cup. This analogy compares memory and love to a saucer and a cup, revealing their shared attribute of holding and supporting something.

Metaphor: Memory and love are a saucer and cup. This metaphor directly equates memory and love to a sa ucer and cup, stating that they are the same.

Simile: Memory and love are like a saucer and cup. This simile compares memory and love to a saucer and cup using "like," highlighting their similarities.

Writing Analogy

Writers use analogies to enhance clarity and convey intricate ideas by comparing different entities. Effective analogies are logical and easily understood, providing readers with new perspectives and deeper insights. They serve two primary purposes in writing:

  • Identification of Identical Relationships: Analogies illustrate similar logical relationships between word pairs, aiding readers in understanding the meanings of words and concepts.
  • Identification of Shared Abstraction: Figurative analogies connect unrelated entities by highlighting shared attributes or patterns, making abstract ideas more concrete and relatable.

By skillfully employing analogies, writers can make their work more engaging, enlightening, and thought-provoking, allowing readers to better grasp complex concepts and ideas.

Types of Analogy: Literal and Figurative

Analogy can be categorized into two primary types:

  • Literal Analogy: In a literal analogy, the comparison is straightforward and factual, directly stating that one thing is similar to another. It's often used for persuasion in arguments.
  • Figurative Analogy: Figurative analogies establish connections between seemingly unrelated entities by highlighting shared attributes or patterns. They often involve metaphors and similes and aim to make abstract ideas more concrete.

Both types of analogies serve distinct purposes in writing, providing readers with clarity, vivid imagery, and a deeper understanding of concepts.

Types of Analogy in Writing

Analogies manifest in writing in two main ways:

  • Comparison of Relationships: This type of analogy demonstrates logical relationships by juxtaposing two pairs of entities. Similes are often used to highlight the relationships between these pairs.
  • Comparison of Abstract Ideas: Figurative analogies compare two abstract ideas, making one idea more relatable by connecting it to something familiar. This approach often involves metaphors and similes.

Writers can choose between these two types of analogies based on their goals and the nature of the concepts they want to convey.

Use of Analogy in Sentences

1. Searching for a chicken in Granma’s soup is like searching for a turtle in the ocean.

2. Abbie’s like a squeaky mouse when she’s on the stage.

3. Water is to the lake as lava is to the volcano.

4. Pedals are to the bicycle as oars are to the boat.

5. Flow is for water as the brake is for solid.

6. Drive : Steer :: Live : Breathe (A few analogies used for critical thinking are written in this form).

Examples of Analogy in Literature

Example 1: "There is No Frigate like a Book" by Emily Dickinson

There is No Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

In this poem, Emily Dickinson employs an analogy comparing a book to a frigate. This analogy serves to emphasize how books have the power to transport the human soul to distant lands, making them a vehicle of knowledge and imagination. It enhances the significance of books as a means of exploring the world without physical travel.

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