Analogy in action

Fundamentally, analogy is usually concerned with systems: with actions and movements and how things work. To put it another way, analogy is more often concerned with comparing dynamic processes, whereas similes and metaphors are more often concerned with describing static states. (And yes, that's arguably a rather sweeping generalisation!)

Having said that, analogies depend profoundly on similes and metaphors - indeed, 'analogy' could simply be defined as 'extended simile' or 'extended metaphor'.

In order to demonstrate these claims, here are two examples of analogies in action.

Analogy #1 - simile-based

Analogy is usually thought of as belonging to explanation - in science, for example. But a great deal of literature is based, in fact, on analogy - developed at length in sophisticated and complex ways.

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Bloody Men

Bloody men are like bloody buses -

You wait for about a year

And as soon as one approaches your stop

Two or three others appear.

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You look at them flashing their indicators,

Offering you a ride.

You’re trying to read the destinations,

You haven't much time to decide.

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If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.

Jump off, and you'll stand there and gaze

While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by

And the minutes, the hours, the days.

Wendy Cope

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The analogy is made obvious through using the simile form 'like', and the reader then 'translates' the typical behaviour of buses in terms of the (alleged) typical behaviour of men. The witty game raises the good old issue of gender differences in a refreshing way ... possibly more refreshing for women than men !

You can present this text to the students either by projecting it using Presentation mode (the Heads-up approach); or by giving out the handout below, and asking them to work through the guiding questions provided... and then run a whole-class discussion.

Link

 Bloody Men - you can also find this poem in the section 'Texts for literary skills', as practice in literary analysis

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Analogy #2 - metaphor-based

Here is an example of how a developed analogy can be used as a witty and stimulating way of exploring ideas - in this case the concept of how to think creatively.

The basic idea is to provide a 'recipe' for imaginative thinking ... or indeed, critical thinking. The connection is established by lifting typical recipe language, and then using it metaphorically.

In order to present this notion of the two levels of literal and metaphorical, I present the same text in two versions -

  • the initial one in straight blue text...
  • ...and then you can click on the little icon to show the second version with the metaphorical words and phrases emphasised in red.

More advanced students should be able to at least begin to detect, analyse and interpret the metaphors - less advanced may well need the help of seeing the crucial wordings identified in red.

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Take a fresh idea. Peel off any hard preconceptions.

Simmer gently for some time, while thinking about something completely different.

Pour cold water over the idea and lay out on a large chopping board

Slice finely, in different directions, in order to uncover the soft heart

Select a range of widely different spices in order to ginger up, make hotter, add sweetness and bring out the exotic

Make a pastry of conventional techniques and standard approaches. Consider – then throw away.

Take a fresh idea. Peel off any hard preconceptions.

Simmer gently for some time, while thinking about something completely different.

Pour cold water over the idea and lay out on a large chopping board

Slice finely, in different directions, in order to uncover the soft heart

Select a range of widely different spices in order to ginger up, make hotter, add sweetness and bring out the exotic

Make a pastry of conventional techniques and standard approaches. Consider – then throw away.

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So, you can use this material either by projecting the text using Presentation mode; or by giving out the handout below and asking the students to study the text on their own, making notes about the metaphorical use of language, and how this translates into the full analogy.

In both cases, it is important to discuss the choice of words in detail ... so as to interpret them precisely ... and thus to understand as clearly as possible what the text is suggesting about how to think creatively / critically.

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