Figurative language is an element of poetry that creates strong imagery through unexpected comparisons and word associations. As you read a poem, finding examples of metaphors, similes, personification and other devices can provide valuable clues to its themes. Writing an analytical essay about a poem's figurative language can help you practice critical reading and writing skills by seeing how authors use this imagery to create meaning in their work.
Types of Figurative Language
Knowing the types of figurative language can help you recognize them more clearly as you analyze a poem. A simile compares two things using the words "like" or "as." It is commonly confused with a metaphor, which directly compares two things without these words. Personification attributes human characteristics to an object or idea, while synecdoche uses a part of something to describe the whole. Other kinds of figurative language include allusions, apostrophes, hyperbole and puns.
Read the poem three times. On the first reading, focus on comprehending its literal situation. Think about who the speaker is, what the tone of his or her language is, and what conflict he or she is dealing with. For the second reading, consider what the main theme of the poem seems to be. Write it in a sentence at the top of the poem. Finally, read the poem again, marking examples of figurative language devices that support this theme.
Formulating a Thesis
Once you know what theme you want to explore in your essay and related examples of figurative language, consider how to phrase this information in a clear, specific thesis statement. For example, the thesis for an essay about Richard Wilbur's "Death of a Toad," might state that Wilbur uses personification to show that life's fragility extends to all life forms in nature. Your thesis should give a concise preview of how the author's language supports the theme.
Establish three main points that use specific examples of figurative language to prove your argument. For an essay about "Death of a Toad," you might write about how Wilbur personifies the toad by relating its sudden, accidental injury, giving it attributes of wisdom and experience of pain and describing its view of eternity. End with a conclusion that wraps up the essay, but does more than summarize, instead leaving readers thinking about your ideas.