Mon. Jun 17th, 2024
IA Richard: Figurative Language and Practical Criticism

What is figurative language?

Figurative language refers to the use of words or expressions in a non-literal way to convey meaning beyond their literal definitions. It involves the use of literary devices such as metaphors, similes, personification, hyperbole, symbolism, and more to create vivid imagery, convey emotions, and add depth to writing.

Moreover, figurative language is like adding colorful paint to a picture instead of just drawing it with a pencil. Instead of saying something directly, you say it more imaginatively.

For example, instead of saying “The sky is blue,” you might say The sky is a blanket of blue.” 

Importance of figurative language in literature

Figurative language plays a crucial role in literature for several reasons:

Adding Depth and Layers: 

Figurative language adds depth to writing by offering multiple layers of meaning. In George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” the phrase “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” is a metaphorical commentary on the corruption and hypocrisy of totalitarian regimes. This metaphorical statement invites readers to think critically about power dynamics and social injustice

Capturing Attention: 

Figurative language captures readers’ attention and engages their imagination. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” the opening line, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” immediately intrigues readers with its imaginative language and sets the stage for an epic adventure.

Creating Memorable Language: 

Memorable phrases and expressions often stem from the use of figurative language. By employing imaginative comparisons and associations, writers can create language that lingers in readers’ minds long after they’ve finished reading.

Establishing Tone and Atmosphere:

Figurative language sets the tone and atmosphere of a literary work. Whether it’s through the use of dark, foreboding imagery or light, playful language, figurative devices help establish the mood and ambiance of a piece of writing.

How to Use Figurative Language Effectively:

  • Understand Context and Audience: Consider the context of your writing and the audience you’re addressing. 
  • Balance Literal and Figurative Language: While figurative language can add color and depth to your writing, be mindful not to sacrifice clarity for the sake of poetic expression. Strike a balance between literal and figurative language, ensuring that your metaphors and similes enhance rather than obscure your message.
  • Use figurative Language Sparingly: While figurative language can enhance your writing, too much of it can overwhelm your readers and detract from your message. Use figurative language sparingly and strategically, focusing on moments where it can have the greatest impact.

Common Types of Figurative Language:

Figurative language encompasses various literary devices that writers use to convey meaning beyond the literal interpretation of words. Here are some common types of figurative language:

Simile: A simile is a direct comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as.” 

For example, “Her smile was as bright as the sun”  “He runs like a cheetah.”

Metaphor: A metaphor also compares two unlike things, but it does so by stating that one thing is another. 

For example, “The world’s a stage” or “Time is a thief.”

Personification: Personification attributes human qualities or characteristics to non-human entities, such as objects, animals, or abstract concepts. 

For instance, “The wind whispered through the trees” or “The sun smiled down on us.”

Hyperbole: Hyperbole involves exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. It is used for emphasis or to create a strong impression. 

For example, “I’ve told you a million times” or “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

Symbolism: Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or concepts beyond their literal meaning. Symbols can be objects, colors, animals, or elements of nature. 

For example, a dove symbolizes peace or red roses symbolize love.

 IA Richards “Practical Criticism”

Practical criticism, often associated with the work of the critic I. A. Richards, is an approach to literary analysis that focuses on reader response, close reading of a text, empathy with the author, multiple interpretations, and Integration of Theory and Practice.

Moreover, he also talked about figurative language in his book Practical Criticism.

How IA Richard sees Figurative Language:

  1. I. A. Richards, a prominent literary critic, viewed figurative language as a crucial element in the communication of emotions and ideas in literature. Here’s how he saw figurative language:
  1. Expressive Function: Richards believed that figurative language, such as metaphor and symbolism, serves an expressive function in literature by conveying complex emotions and abstract concepts more vividly than literal language. Figurative language allows writers to evoke sensory experiences and stimulate readers’ imaginations, creating a deeper emotional and intellectual impact.
  1. Affective Response: According to Richards, figurative language elicits an effective response in readers, engaging their emotions and eliciting empathy with the experiences and perspectives presented in the text. By appealing to readers’ imaginations and sensibilities, figurative language enhances their engagement with the literary work and fosters a deeper appreciation of its themes and messages.

Types of Figurative Language by IA Richards:

In his book “Practical Criticism,” I. A. Richards discusses various forms of figurative language, including metaphor, simile, personification, and symbolism. Richards employs these forms of figurative language as analytical tools to explore how literary texts communicate meaning and evoke emotional responses in readers.


Richards emphasizes the importance of metaphor in literature for its ability to convey abstract ideas and complex emotions through indirect comparison. He examines how metaphors function within literary texts to create layers of meaning and enrich the reader’s understanding.


Richards also discusses simile, another form of figurative language that involves comparing two unlike things using the words “like” or “as.” He explores how similes contribute to the imagery and descriptive richness of literary works, enhancing the reader’s sensory experience and imaginative engagement with the text.


Personification is another figurative device that Richards examines in “Practical Criticism.” He discusses how personification attributes human qualities to non-human entities, such as objects or natural elements, to create vivid and evocative imagery in literature.


Richards discusses symbolism as a form of figurative language that involves the use of symbols to represent abstract ideas, themes, or concepts. He explores how symbols function within literary texts to convey deeper meanings and provoke thought and reflection in readers.

Also read: Schools of Criticism; In English Literature


In conclusion, I. A. Richards, a prominent literary critic, emphasized the significance of figurative language in literature in his approach to practical criticism. He saw figurative language as a crucial element in conveying emotions, ideas, and deeper layers of meaning in literary texts. Richards believed that figurative language, including metaphor, simile, personification, and symbolism, serves an expressive function by enhancing the reader’s emotional and intellectual engagement with the text.

Moreover, in his book “Practical Criticism,” Richards discussed various forms of figurative language as analytical tools for exploring how literary texts communicate meaning and evoke emotional responses in readers.

By Romana

Hi everyone I'm Romana the creator of "Literaturebs.Online". I've always had a passion for stories, so I decided to build this space to share my love of literature with fellow bookworms like you. From classic novels to modern masterpieces, I hope to inspire and engage readers of all ages. Join me as we embark on a journey through the wonderful world of words!"

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