Are all metaphors similes, or vice versa, or what?

I recall being taught (starting a sentence with those words is always dangerous) that the simplistic definition of similes and metaphors as being mutually exclusive – the former, unlike the latter, using ‘like’ or ‘as’ when making its figurative comparison – was wrong, and that one (I think simile) was actually a subset of the other (I think metaphor), like the old saw about pennies and coins. My girlfriend adamantly contends that this isn’t true, and that something can’t be both a simile and a metaphor. The dictionaries we’ve checked appear to support her.

Have I been under a false apprehension all this time, like the fox who thought the reflection of the moon in the river was a piece of cheese, or will I be the cat that’s eaten the canary?

Simple solution - ask her for an example of a metaphor-simile combination. Because if there is one, i’d like to know :smiley:

I’m with your GF. A simile compares two different things; a metaphor kind of replaces one thing with another: says thing one IS thing two.

A simile compares two things; a metaphor equates two things.

Simile: He’s as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Metaphor: He’s the dullest knife in the drawer.

How exactly does one equate two things without comparing them? A simile is a specific type of metaphor usually using “like” or “as” as a comparison. “He is a fox” is a metaphor. “He is like a fox” is a metaphor and a simile. (My bolding)

A simile is an explicit comparison, which involved equating one with the other; a metaphor an implicit comparison, without the equation…

My point still being that there’s no way to equate one thing to another without comparing the two things.

So then “He’s the dullest knife in the drawer” is a simile, right? We’re explicitly comparing him to a knife, because they’re both dull. And “the road of life” is also a simile, yes?

A simile makes the comparison explicitly, a metaphor does so implicitly.

No. They’re both metaphors. They’re not explicit comparisons, they’re explicit substitutions of descriptive images for the literal description of reality.

To express it in symbolic logic:

Simile: A and B are both a subset of C (he and a bag of hammers are both examples of unintelligent things)

Metaphor: A = B (he is a poorly maintained eating utensil)

As you can see, metaphors are virtually never literally true; similes usually are intended to be literally true.

Hmmmm…you’ve got me thinking…is it possible for a metaphor to be literally true? Or if it is, is it not a metaphor? :confused:

I always thought a metaphor was when you never even mention the thing you’re really talking about. The best example I can think of is the book Animal Farm, where every animal is generally accepted to represent a person or organization (e.g. Lenin, the Church, etc.) but the actual people (e.g. Lenin himself, etc.) are never mentioned in the book.

But I guess I’m wrong. So what would call that? Symbolism? So then we have symbols, metaphors, and similes?

Here’s how I explained it to my eighth graders:

The subject is figurative language, which includes: similes, metaphors, irony, symbolism, hyperbole, apostrophe, and a few other items which I can’t recall off the top of my head.

A simile is a direct comparison. This is like that. He is as [blank] as a [blank]. You mention both things as being similar to one another.

A metaphor is an implicit comparison. Implicit because you don’t say “this is like that,” you say “this IS *.” For instance, I could say “Life’s a bitch.” That’s a metaphor. It is not, however, literally true. You could not, for instance, take a picture of someone’s life and end up with a portrait of a female dog. A metaphor is a kind of code. You substitute one thing for another, but you tell the reader exactly what you’re doing. Sometimes, you can get an extended metaphor, where you tell the reader once what you’re doing, and then keep the idea up without repeating the key to the code. For instance: My English teacher’s a real witch. I bet she rides a broom to class every day.

A symbol is similar to a metaphor in that it’s a code. The trick is, though, that the author doesn’t give you the key to the code. You have to figure it out for yourself. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells his daughter not to shoot her pellet gun at any mockingbirds, because it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. The mockingbird becomes a symbol for Tom Robins (?) - and it could be argued vice-versa - because it represents destroying an innocent, a thing that did no harm. The author never comes right out and says “Tom is the mockingbird”. You have to figure it out for yourself.

I believe Animal Farm is an example of an allegory - a narrative using symbolic characters.

I always teach my kids that a simile is like a metaphor… :smiley: