We are all familiar with the terms allegory and analogy from grammar 101 in school. However, most people still manage to get these two terms confused. Although both terms are used for comparison, allegories & metaphors are NOT the same things. In this post, we’ll break down the differences between these two devices and provide some examples.
What Is An Analogy?
An analogy is a figure of speech that uses a seemingly unrelated story to compare two or more things that are similar in some way. There are many common analogies that are used in our everyday language. We call these ‘figures of speech’ because they are used so frequently.
- That basketball game was a rollercoaster of emotions.
- Finding a good girlfriend is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
- Talking to you is like talking to a brick wall.
Analogies have been used throughout history to make arguments more persuasive and to add nuance to writing and speech. In court, lawyers will often use analogies to explain complex legal concepts to the jury. In literature, authors will sometimes use an analogy to paint a more vivid picture for the reader.
Main reasons for using analogies:
- Create humor
- Explain hidden meaning or complicated topic
- Add emphasis
- Add emotion
Just like we saw with the words payed vs paid, similar words do not have the same meaning. Just because analogy and allegory are spelled similarly, people assume they have the same meaning!
Takeaway: Analogies compare and point out the similarities in two different thins. They can be a helpful tool for understanding complicated ideas.
What Is An Allegory
Allegories are stories, poems, or pictures that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. This literary device is not something you would commonly find in formal writing or academic writing.
The expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence
Many people confuse allegories with symbolism or metaphors…but they are not the same.
- Metaphor: Figure of speech in which one object is compared to another or shown to have a similarity. Ex: Mark is a lion on the battlefield.
- Simile: Compares two things using “like” or “as”. Ex: Mark is as strong as a lion.
Here are some famous examples of allegories:
- John Bunyan’s 17th-century book The Pilgrim’s Progress
- George Orwell’s Animal Farm
- Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Takeaway: An allegory is a type of story in which the fictional characters, events, and settings represent abstract ideas to convey meaning. While allegories can be complex, they can also be entertaining and enjoyable to read.
- Definition: An allegory is a symbolic representation that tells a story in order to convert a specific message. It is most often used to convey a hidden meaning. An analogy is a literary device that compares the similarity between two different things. It is usually used to explain a topic more clearly. An allegory encompasses the entire narrative, where as the analogy is just a statement.
- Length: An allegory is a detailed in-depth story (although it can also be artwork or a poem). However, an analogy is usually just a sentence or two in length.
We saw in our analysis of the words monkies or monkeys that words which are spelled similarly are frequently confused. Many writers confuse analogies and allegories simply because the words look alike!
Analogies Make Effective Explanations
Analogies are often used to help explain more complicated topics. For instance, you might use an analogy to explain how to play a sport. This is also a very effective technique for teaching children.
For example, if you wanted to teach your son how to play defense on basketball, an analogy might help. “After you score, run back on defense like your life depends on it!” This gives the child a clear understanding of what the coach is looking for. It also conveys some emotion and urgency!
Takeaway: By providing a simplified example, analogies can help people to understand a concept more easily.
What About Similes & Metaphors?
Similies & metaphors are two of the most popular literary devices used in the English language. But they are NOT the same
A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things, usually using the words “like” or “as.”
- You might say that someone is “as fast as a cheetah.”
- Or that someone is “as strong as an Ox.”
In addition to adding interest and variety, similes can also help to paint a more vivid picture in the reader’s mind. You will find similes in almost all types of writing:
- Song lyrics
When used skillfully, they can also add humor or emotion to a piece of writing. Although similes are highly effective, they should be used sparingly. Excessive use of similes can be distracting and impact the quality of your writing.
Just like how idioms & metaphors aren’t the same, similes and metaphors are different. A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses one thing to represent another. Unlike similes, metaphor’s do not use the terms “like” or “as”.
Check out these two metaphors as an example:
- You might say “She’s a snake” to describe someone who is treacherous.
- Or “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” to describe how hungry you are.
Metaphors can be powerful tools for expression, helping us to conveyed complex ideas in a compact and understandable way. However, make sure you understand the words you are using. Overly complicated metaphors can be distracting and difficult to understand.
Takeaway: Metaphors are short phrases used to describe something by referring to something else that has similar characteristics.
Allegory vs Parable: What’s The Difference?
Allegory and parable are also commonly confused terms amongst students & writers. However, these are distinct narrative forms with unique characteristics.
- Allegory is more elaborate and extended, often featuring multiple layers of symbolism that correspond to abstract concepts or moral teachings.
- Parable is a concise and straightforward story that utilizes relatable characters and situations to illustrate a specific moral or lesson.
- Allegories tend to be more complex and open-ended, allowing for diverse interpretations.
- Parables typically have a singular intended meaning and a clear moral message.
FAQs – Allegory vs Analogy
An analogy is a comparison between two things that are similar in some way. For example, you might say that “love is like a rose” to describe how love is beautiful and has thorns. Analogies can be used to explain complex ideas or make arguments more relatable.
An example of an allegory is the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. In this story, the tortoise is a symbol for patience and perseverance, while the hare is a symbol for recklessness and haste. The moral of the story is that slow and steady wins the race. Animal Farm, by George Orwell, is another very popular allegory. An allegory tells a story and is often described as extended metaphors.
Analogies and allusions are both methods of comparison. Analogy is a comparison of one or more things based on similarity, while allusion is a reference to a known person, place, thing, or event. Allusion often relies on the element of surprise to make its point, while analogy is more direct.
The three times on analogies are metaphors, similies, and allegories. An analogy compares two objects to illustrate the literal meaning of something.
Metaphors and allegories are different. A metaphor compares two seemingly unrelated things in a sentence or two. Allegories are a more complete narrative that is based more in reality than most metaphors.
There is a lot of similarity between an analogy and similes and metaphors. However, an analogy is a bit more complex than the other two literary devices.
An analogy is more extensive and elaborate than a simile. An analogy is a figure of speech that compares two concepts or objects. A simile is also a figure of speech that compares two things using “like” or “as”. Similies can be used to describe an abstract idea or reveal a hidden meaning.
Although many people use allegory and analogy as interchangeable terms…they are different. The next time you’re explaining a complex concept to someone or trying to make your writing more interesting, remember the difference between allegory and analogy.
With a better understanding of these two terms, you can choose the right tool for the job and make your writing stand out from the rest.