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What is the difference between metaphor and extended metaphor?


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A metaphor is a word or phrase that means one thing and is used for referring to another thing in order to emphasize their similar qualities. For example broken heart. When you say broken heart, you don't mean it in the literal sense. You don't want to say that your heart is literally in pieces, but that someone doesn't love you, etc.

An extended metaphor isn't just a couple of words, but usually an entire work. For instance a poem. The author exploits that single metaphor in great detail. The metaphor is used in different ways throughout the work.

For instance this poem by Margaret Atwood titled Habitation:

Marriage is not

a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

The edge of the forest, the edge

of the desert

the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat

outside, eating popcorn

where painfully and with wonder

at having survived even

this far

we are learning to make fire.

As you can see, the author is using the metaphor of habitation to portray what marriage is like.

Hope this helps!

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Here's how I see these two and I'll try to explain it all in layman's term:

1. Metaphor - Any phrase, word, idea, event, item or undertaking used as a symbol for something else. For instance, George Orwell's Animal Farm can be a metaphor for the irony of communism.

2. Extended metaphor - Just imagine a whole paragraph of metaphor or several metaphors in a single clump of words. That's an extended metaphor. Perfect example? Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet dialogues and T.S Eliot's The Wasteland.

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Thank you Slovene, you've done a great job. :smile:

I have to say so myself. The examples given are truly remarkable. It really helped me understand the differences between the two. But gratitude must be extended to you, too, harris. I mean, I didn't even know that there is such a thing as extended metaphor! like snowfairy, i learned something new today, too. thank you.

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I think metaphors are just more precise and brief whereas extended metaphors probably expound a bit more on the idea. For example, a whole paragraph could be used as allegory or metaphor to convey what an object, event, or experience could possibly relate to, whereas a basic metaphor would convey that idea in just one sentence.

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I didn't know there was a term for those really long metaphors either, so thanks Kektheman! I thought everything that since there were so many types of figures of speech, that anything that used a metaphor, no matter how long it may run, is simply a metaphor.

I'm glad I read this thread, haha! You do indeed learn something new everyday. :)

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