Definition of Personification:
Personification is a figure of speech in which a non-human thing—be it an abstract concept, animal, or inanimate object—is given human attributes and characteristics. Personification is often used to create a certain mood or to project the emotions of a character or narrator onto a non-human thing.
Examples of Personification in Literature:
“Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
—Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”
Dickinson is famous for incorporating themes of death into her poetry. In “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” she imagines death as a gentleman caller who arrives to escort her to whatever destination lies beyond life. Since death is personified as a kind and gentle figure, the fear and sadness with which the topic is often treated are subverted.
“And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
And chased south along.”
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
The “storm-blast” is given human traits to emphasize the way it appears to antagonize the ship and its crew. It is figured as actively chasing them south. This creates a visual image of the storm as a great winged tyrant that is attacking the ship with its strength, highlighting the fear and helplessness felt by the crew under the onslaught.
“The house was alive with soft, quick steps and running voices. The green baize door that led to the kitchen regions swung open and shut with a muffled thud. And now there came a long, chuckling absurd sound. It was the heavy piano being moved on its stiff castors. But the air! If you stopped to notice, was the air always like this? Little faint winds were playing chase, in at the tops of the windows, out at the doors. And there were two tiny spots of sun, one on the inkpot, one on a silver photograph frame, playing too. Darling little spots. Especially the one on the inkpot lid. It was quite warm. A warm little silver star. She could have kissed it.”
—Katherine Mansfield’s “The Garden Party”
This example is rich with personification, from the house to the piano to the winds. The sense of life that the narrator gives the house is both whimsical and a bit mystical, emphasizing both the childish wonder with which Laura views the world and adding a sense of the supernatural to the events that unfold.