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What is Anthropomorphism in Narrative? Definition and Examples

You’ve likely come across stories where animals talk, trees walk, or cars have feelings. This literary device, where non-human entities are given human characteristics, can transform a simple narrative into a captivating journey.

While common in children’s literature, Anthropomorphism has a profound impact on stories that resonate with audiences of all ages. It is a technique that bridges the gap between the familiar and the fantastic, making the abstract accessible and relatable.

In this article, we will explore how Anthropomorphism is, how it differs from other literary devices, and how you can harness its power in your writing.

Anthropomorphism meaning

To comprehend the essence of Anthropomorphism, it’s imperative to define it. At its core, Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.

It is a foundational element in many forms of storytelling, allowing writers to infuse life into the lifeless and personality into the inanimate. This technique is not limited to animals or objects; it can extend to natural phenomena, abstract concepts, or even deities.

The definition of Anthropomorphism reveals its flexibility as a narrative device. By endowing a non-human character with human attributes, you create a bridge to the audience’s empathy, making your story more engaging and relatable. It is a delicate balance of imbuing just enough humanity to evoke connection without overshadowing the innate qualities of the non-human entity.


ANTHROPOMORPHISM DEFINITION

What is Anthropomorphism?

Anthropomorphism is a literary device wherein non-human entities, such as animals, objects, or natural phenomena, are given human-like traits, emotions, or characteristics. This technique allows writers to make the non-human more relatable to human experiences, emotions, and behaviors, thereby enhancing the narrative and creating deeper connections with the audience.


Benefits of using Anthropomorphism in storytelling

Incorporating this technique into your storytelling offers several advantages.

  • Creativity and innovation. Anthropomorphism fosters creativity and innovation in narrative construction. By envisioning the world from a non-human perspective, you open up a treasure trove of storytelling possibilities, crafting narratives that stand out in their originality.
  • Reader engagement. Human-like characters derived from non-human sources captivate audiences, making them more likely to connect with the story on an emotional level. This emotional investment can lead to a more profound and lasting impact on the reader, as the unique characters and their experiences are more easily remembered.
  • Deliver messages and commentaries. By masking real-world issues within the guise of non-human characters, you can address sensitive topics in an approachable and thought-provoking way. This technique can be especially effective in genres like satire, where the human-like qualities of animals or objects can reflect and critique human society.

Anthropomorphism vs. Personification: understanding the difference

While often used interchangeably, Anthropomorphism and Personification are distinct concepts.

Personification attributes human qualities to inanimate objects or abstract concepts, often for poetic or illustrative purposes. It is a figurative comparison that helps readers visualize and feel the attributes of non-human elements in a human context.

In contrast, Anthropomorphism goes a step further. When you define Anthropomorphism, you’re referring to the portrayal of non-human entities as having human form or characteristics to the extent that they may be perceived as actual characters. These entities are not just described in human terms. They think, feel, and act as humans do, becoming protagonists or vital characters within the narrative.

To differentiate Personification from Anthropomorphism, consider the depth of the human-like portrayal. Personification might describe a storm as “angry,” while Anthropomorphism would have the storm converse, plot, and express complex emotions as a human character would. This distinction is crucial when deciding which device to employ for your desired narrative effect.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Animal Farm, George Orwell

Examples of Anthropomorphism in literature

Literary history is replete with examples of Anthropomorphism that have left indelible marks on culture and storytelling.

Classics such as George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” showcase how farm animals, imbued with human traits, can represent and critique political ideologies. This allegorical novella demonstrates the power of Anthropomorphism to convey complex ideas in an accessible and impactful manner.

Children’s literature offers a wealth of examples of Anthropomorphism. A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” series presents a lovable bear and his friends. Each embodies different aspects of human personality, from anxiety to exuberance. These stories utilize Anthropomorphism to explore friendships, fears, and childhood innocence through characters that resonate with readers of all ages.

Fables and myths from various cultures also employ Anthropomorphism to impart moral lessons and philosophical insights. Characters like Aesop’s cunning fox or the shape-shifting deities from ancient mythology use human attributes to embody virtues, vices, and the complexity of human behavior. These stories have endured through the ages, proving the timeless appeal of Anthropomorphism in literature.

How to effectively use Anthropomorphism in your writing: tips and techniques

To effectively wield Anthropomorphism in your writing, consider these tips and techniques.

  • Determining the purpose of using Anthropomorphism in your narrative. Are you aiming to entertain, educate, or convey a deeper message? This decision will guide the extent and manner in which you apply human characteristics to your non-human characters.
  • Focus on character development. Anthropomorphized characters should be as well-rounded and complex as their human counterparts. Give them distinct personalities, motivations, and growth arcs. Ensure their human traits are consistent with their non-human nature, creating a believable and relatable entity.
  • Maintain a balance between the human and non-human elements. Over-humanizing can alienate readers who seek the novelty of a non-human perspective. Under-humanizing can fail to forge the empathetic connection that makes Anthropomorphism effective. Strike a harmonious balance that serves your narrative goals and engages your audience.

Crafting non-human characters with bibisco character development tools

Anthropomorphism adds a unique layer of depth and complexity to narratives by attributing human characteristics to non-human entities. With bibisco novel writing software, harnessing the power of Anthropomorphism becomes a seamless process.

Through its dedicated features for character development and the inclusion of a section dedicated to objects, writers can infuse personality and emotions into inanimate objects or animals, creating relatable characters and enhancing the overall storytelling experience.

bibisco objects management tools - what is anthropomorphism?
bibisco object management tools

Whether breathing life into a talking teapot or giving voice to a wise old tree, bibisco provides the tools necessary to master the art of Anthropomorphism and craft compelling narratives that resonate with readers.

Conclusion

Anthropomorphism is a unique storytelling technique that offers a powerful means to craft engaging, memorable narratives. Its ability to humanize the non-human fosters empathy, ignites the imagination, and enables writers to approach themes from innovative angles.

Whether you aim to entertain, educate, or enlighten, Anthropomorphism can be a versatile and potent ally in your storytelling arsenal.

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2 Responses

  1. enjoyed every bit is this read. it was like drinking water fresh from a spring. thank you for taking time to educate us -Writers.

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