Analogy definition: An analogy is a comparison between two things that are quite different in nature. An analogy often explains a complex subject with one that is simpler or more familiar.
What is an Analogy?
What does analogy mean? An analogy is a comparison between two things. By nature, those two things are quite different from each other.
An analogy looks at complex subjects and simplifies them through comparison. The simplified or more familiar aspect of an analogy helps a reader understand the more complex concept.
An analogy may be as short as a sentence or as long as a few paragraphs.
Here is a familiar example of an analogy (which also happens to be an English idiom) is:
- The grass is always greener on the other side.
This expression compares a difficult situation or a trying time in one’s life to a field of grass. This analogy explains that life always seems better when looking at it through someone else’s lens.
It is difficult to explain trying times in life. This expression simplifies the matter to one that is easier to grasp and understand.
Analogy vs. Simile and Metaphor
Even though it is a comparison, an analogy is not a simile nor is it a metaphor.
What does simile mean? A simile compares to entities with comparison words such as like, as, and resembles.
- He stood as solid as a rock.
What does metaphor mean? A metaphor compares two things without using comparison words.
- He was a rock.
An analogy and a metaphor both compare things that are different and look for similarities between the two. However, an analogy focuses on the similarities between the two entities or situations in order to make a topic more digestible. A metaphor is a figure of speech that says one thing is another.
Modern Examples of Analogy
Example of analogy: A common expression that is an example of analogy is to “let a situation thaw.”
This analogy compares any difficult situation to a block of ice. To let any situation thaw would mean to let it rest, to give it space.
Ice and a difficult situation are not similar by nature. However, an analogy compares the two to show the similarities. Ice is a much simpler subject to explain than a trying situation.
For example, if an employee is frustrated with his employer, a coworker might tell him “to let the situation thaw.”
The situation itself cannot thaw; this analogy is a way to compare a complex subject to a simpler idea. The intention is to give the situation space to let it rest and “melt” before making any serious decisions.
This analogy takes a complex topic (like a heated relationship between two individuals) and makes it more familiar by comparing it to ice.
The Purpose of Analogy
Why use analogies? Analogies are useful in that they help explain complex subjects. Writers who are communicating a difficult or perhaps even sensitive topic might benefit from using analogy.
For example, a writer may introduce his work with an analogy to prepare his audience for the difficulty of his subject matter. The comparison may not be evident until the reader has completed the text. Nonetheless, the comparison serves to gently introduce a complex topic and to make that topic more familiar to the audience.
Examples of Analogy in Literature
What is analogy in literature? In her landmark text evaluating the effects of man on nature, author Rachel Carson prepares the audience by beginning her writing with an analogy.
Analogy Examples in Literature:
In Silent Spring, Carson presents a town which was once rich and flourishing. Then, as man invades the town, nature becomes “silent” because man destroys it.
Carson begins with this “fable” in order to prepare her audience for her complex essay regarding man’s detrimental impact on the natural world.
Carson’s audience can relate to a quiet, peaceful town in Middle America. They can see through Carson’s imagery the beauty and serenity of nature. They understand how man’s impact changes the town.
This familiar story prepares the audience for a less familiar one—that this is not a fable at all, and that man has a destructive impact on his surrounding world.
Summary: What are Analogies?
Define analogy: The definition of analogy is a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification.
Their key features are,
- a comparison between two unlike things
- extended and often situational
- a way to explain a complex subject in familiar or simpler terms