Difference WikiLanguage

Difference Between Allegory and Metaphor

Main Difference

The main difference between Allegory and Metaphor is that the Allegory has characters, images, and events as symbols that reflect hidden meanings, whereas a Metaphor is an indirect comparison between two unrelated things in a piece of literature.

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Allegory vs. Metaphor

Allegory is a term in literature in which different characters, images, and events are acting as symbols. Metaphor is a term in the literature that defined as the indirect comparison between two unrelated things. Allegory is a literary device that adds up a hidden meaning into the text. A metaphor is a literary device that compares two separate things. Allegory is not only seen in literature but also sculptures, paintings, etc. metaphor typically belongs to the literature.

Allegory symbolizes the things; it is making use of symbolism. A metaphor compares the thing to explain them fully. Hence it makes use of imagery. Allegories is always carrying a hidden meaning. Metaphors do not have a hidden meaning. An allegory is considered as a substitute for another object or action. It has clear points. A metaphor mostly refers to imaginary or fictional things. It has vague notions. The word allegory derives from Latin ‘Allegoria,’ which holds the meaning of figurative or veiled language. The word metaphor derives from the Old French ‘Metaphore,’ from the Latin ‘Metaphora,’ which means ‘carrying over.’

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An allegory is revealing the facts. It is closer to reality. A metaphor does not state fact, and it does not necessarily relate to reality. Allegory usually refers to the things that have a more extensive scope or message, e.g., morality, politics, culture, etc. Metaphors do not have any underlying or hidden meaning. An allegory is also known as an extended metaphor. A metaphor is a phrasal expression that is simpler than allegory. Allegory is a more extended comparison covering the whole passage, essay, or novel. A metaphor is a short comparison consisting of words or sentences.

Comparison Chart

AllegoryMetaphor
A term in literature in which different characters, images, and events are acting as symbolsA term in the literature that defined as the indirect comparison between two unrelated things
Use of the Literary Devices
SymbolismImagery
Function
Adds a hidden meaning to the textCompares two unrelated things
Underlying Meaning
Relates to morality or politicsNo hidden meaning
Idea/Scope
BroaderNarrower
Comparison
Longer-consisting passagesShorter-containing words/phrases
Type
ComplexSimple
Connection to Reality
MoreLess
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What is Allegory?

Allegory is a piece of art/literature that serves to reveal the hidden meanings behind that very piece of art or literature. The characters, events, or objects act as symbols in allegory. It usually refers to the political, moral, ethical, religious, cultural ideas or ideas about human lives. Allegory is not only in the form of prose/verse but also in the form of sculptures, paintings, and the like.

Allegory gives a broader scope to the story and makes its characters multidimensional. In an allegory, the things stand for anything more substantial than what they literary stand for. The use of animals for depicting the communism and Russian revolution is known as allegory. Even sometimes, the simple stories giving a moral falls into the category of allegory because they have hidden meanings. Examples are the boy who cried wolf, the ant and the grasshopper, the wolf and the lamb, the tortoise and the hare, etc.

The best example of allegory is the apple eaten by Adam on the insistence of Eve. That apple symbolizes the knowledge between good and bad. Allegory is a figurative use of language when a writer wants to express a complex idea, or image Symbolism is the essential element of an allegory. It uses symbolic objects, characters, figures, or actions to uncover ideas about human nature, political situations, or historical events.

Examples

  • ‘Animal Farm’(George Orwell’s)
  • ‘Faerie Queene’ (Edmund Spenser)
  • ‘Allegory of the Cave’(Plato)
  • ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’(John Bunyan)
  • The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
  • ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’(S. Lewis)
  • ‘The Lord of the Flies’(William Golding)

What is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a literary device reflecting the implicit comparison between two unrelated things. Unlike similes, metaphors do not have the connecting words, e.g., like or as. It states one thing exactly like the other. The word metaphor derives from the Old French ‘Metaphore,’ from the Latin ‘Metaphora,’ which means ‘carrying over.’

A metaphor uses an applicable literary comparison. Such comparison can transfer the sense/ aspects of one word/phrase to another. It is a type of figurative language that is describing a thing as something which it is not. The University of North Carolina Pembroke states that “the use of a metaphor is likely to reveal interesting qualities of the subject that a reader did not notice earlier.”

A metaphor gives a style to a literary piece, by adding meanings to ordinary things, ideas, and people, etc. For example, the metaphor “Life is not a bed of roses” life and bed of roses are two complexly unrelated things. Yet the clarity of bed of roses is a comparison to life. This implies that life is not as easy and comfortable as the bed of roses is. The Silken Tent” is a love poem that is a metaphor. The poems open with “She is as in a field a silken tent.” In this poem, “The Silken Tent” is used as the metaphor for the beloved of the poet.

Examples

  • My younger sister is a firecracker.
  • You cannot say that life is a bed of roses because it is not.
  • You are the sunshine in my dark mornings.
  • Life is a journey sometimes long, sometimes short.

Key Differences

  1. Allegory is a literary device that adds up a hidden meaning into the text, whereas a metaphor is a literary device that compares two unrelated things.
  2. Allegory is not only seen in literature but also sculptures, paintings, etc. on the other hand, metaphor typically belongs to the literature.
  3. Allegory symbolizes the things in this way; it is making use of symbolizes, contrarily metaphor compares the thing to explain them fully; hence it makes use of imagery.
  4. An allegory is considered as a substitute for another object or action, while metaphor refers to fictional things.
  5. Allegories are always carrying a hidden meaning inversely metaphors do not have a hidden meaning.
  6. An allegory is closer to reality on the flip side; a metaphor does not necessarily relate to reality.
  7. Allegory usually refers to the things that have a larger scope or message, e.g., morality, politics, culture, etc. on the contrary, metaphors do not have any underlying or hidden meaning.
  8. The word allegory derives from Latin ‘Allegoria,’ which holds the meaning of figurative or veiled language on the converse the word metaphor derives from the Old French ‘Metaphore,’ from the Latin ‘Metaphora,’ that means ‘carrying over.’
  9. An allegory is also known as an extended metaphor; on the other side, a metaphor is a phrasal expression that is simpler than allegory.
  10. Allegory is a more extended comparison covering whole passage, essay, or novel; in contrast, metaphor is a short comparison consisting of words or sentences.

Conclusion

Allegory and Metaphor are the two different literary devices. The difference between them based on their definition, usage, symbolism, origin, and their application in specific texts.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson