Personification gives objects or abstract concepts a human voice or quality. We all use it in everyday speech: time races by, shoes kill us, the wind moans. Advertisers use it, very small children use it when they are playing with their food and turn the ‘mato they do not want to eat into a jumping rabbit that hops right off the plate. Poets use it.
I am not cruel, only truthful –
from Mirror by Sylvia Plath
Emily Dickenson turned Death into a gentleman
Because I could not stop for Death– He kindly stopped for me– The Carriage held but just Ourselves– And Immortality.
It can pack a punch. You can hear Shelley’s voice in these lines from the Mask of Anarchy. It was written not long after the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 when the cavalry charged into an unarmed crowd of men, women and children demanding parliamentary reform. About 20 died and over 400 were wounded
I met Murder on the way He had a mask like Castlereagh…
Next came Fraud, and he had on, Like Eldon, an ermined gown; His big tears, for he wept well, Turned to mill-stones as they fell. And the little children, who Round his feet played to and fro, Thinking every tear a gem, Had their brains knocked out by them.
Almost 200 years later you can still feel the poet’s anger, can’t you?
I bet almost every newspaper or magazine you read today will have an example of personification in it. Have you found any good examples or do some make you cringe?