A SIMILE is a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another of a different kind, using either “as“ or “like“ to contrast the two.
We use similes more than we may be aware of — as children, we may have used terms such as “brave as a lion“ or “busy as a bee“.
A simile is extremely effective when used thoughtfully as it allows the reader to visualise and make associations with what is being described.
Similes can be simple, fun and humorous, or more creative and complex, perhaps enhanced by other literary devices.
There are a few patterns in the structure of similes:
• Something is AS adjective AS something
“She is as swift as the winds before an oncoming storm.“
“He is as loyal as the old guard dog.“
• Something is LIKE something
“Her joy in her son was radiant like the brilliant sun.“
• Something does (action verb) like something
“She closed her face like a cupboard.“
“They recoiled like a cobra poised to strike.“
• There are also some exceptions to the rule that do not use “as“ or “like“ but still apply.
“I‘m happier than a kid in a theme park!“
For aspiring authors who want to write something engaging or with more impact, similes need to be employed in a more creative and original way.
With this in mind, you could apply other devices to your description.
For example, instead of using a simile with a simple structure such as: “Her tears were like stars“, you could develop it further: “Her glistening tears were like stars on her pale, alabaster skin, sparkling under the moonlight“.
The added adjectives enhance the effect of the simile, augmenting its visual and emotive impact.
Consider your choice of similes well.
The effect you intend to create may not be the one conveyed if, for instance, you describe a woman‘s dress to be “as yellow as a banana“.
This may cause the reader to think of a banana instead of the dress!
The meaning is lost — albeit in a humorous way — and defeats the purpose of its use in the first place.
You can also construct a simile that has an open-ended nature about it, leaving room for the reader‘s individual interpretation.
“Her presence was like the dewy smell before a thunderstorm“, for example, allows for two interpretations of the girl: the first, as a peaceful and reassuring presence before an inevitable thunderstorm.
Alternatively, the reader could also see her as a sinister, unpredictable character that brings danger with her.
In exams, you may be required to analyse the purpose and effects of a simile on the reader.
For instance, the poem Night of The Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel tells the story of a boy whose mother is stung by a scorpion.
The villagers and the boy‘s father all try to cure her although they are unable to help much.
Ezekiel describes how the villagers “swarmed like flies“ in the boy‘s home.
This simile conveys his annoyance towards them — they, like flies, are a nuisance.
It also shows that the villagers have all come at once and are noisy.
The simile also carries with it visual and auditory impact.
Flies are also irksome creatures that are attracted to food, therefore the simile suggests that the villagers were there because they were drawn to the spectacle of the mother, who was bitten, and not necessarily because they cared.
When used with careful consideration, instinct and originality, similes, like metaphors (see the Dec 11, 2011 article, Magic of metaphors), are a multidimensional type of figure of speech that can bring a piece of writing to life in wonderful ways.
The writer is a Year 10 student at the Alice Smith Secondary School