the difference between pathetic fallacy and personification   Leave a comment












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Pathetic fallacy is giving inanimate (non-living) nature human terms. This is the easiest definition of it, but there other rules to its use. It can also be used when describing a character’s mood in relation to the weather. Sometimes it is better to pretend that it is called ‘empathetic mistakes’ as this is, quite literally, its definition. If you think about it, giving non-living, naturally occurring objects any emotion is a big mistake! When it is used effectively, pathetic fallacy can breathe life into a passage and make a student’s writing pleasant to the eye. Because the differences between pathetic fallacy and personification cause so much confusion, a grid system to help is below.


The   river was babbling. The   doom-black sky made the soldiers fearful.
The   mountains were brooding. The   wind howled outside as the orphans   cried within.
The   wind was moaning. The   radiant stars made our cares fall away.
The   sun was staring down at us. The   sombre clouds were darkening our mood.
The   moon looked lonely in the sky. The   heaving ocean made us feel ill.

Personification is giving animate (living) nature, non-natural objects and ideas human terms. Personification can add a tantalising and thought-provoking dimension to your writing. The distinctions between this and pathetic are marginal, but they are there.

           ANIMATE NATURE                                 NON-NATURAL OBJECTS

The   flowers were nodding their heads. The   ship was plodding as it left the harbour.
The   lion was glaring at me. The   mobile phone had a mind of its own.
The   bees were humming a tune. The   champagne glass was pinging with joy.
The   trees were staring at us. The   car’s engine was screaming in pain.
The   blackbird gave us an aria. The   words were leaping off the page.


    PERSONIFYING IDEAS                                                                                     

Time is a great healer.
Fate was hurrying to meet me.
Destiny is no one’s slave.
Courage is the enemy of weak men.
Cowardice is a strange bedfellow for a man.

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