1. What is it?

An analogy is the use of one idea, event or relationship to explain another. It is most commonly done by comparing a difficult idea to a simple idea that can be easily understood.

An analogy that extends to an entire story is called an allegory.

They are commonly found in prose, poetry, and children’s literature.

Note: analogies and metaphors are not the same. Metaphors describe an object as if it is another thing. Analogies compare an idea to another idea, making it easier to understand.

2. Why use it?

To help people understand difficult concepts by comparing them to easily understood concepts.

3. Examples

He looked at her with an instantly bored expression.
“You don’t enjoy time with my friends?” she enquired.
“Let me put it like this”, he started. “Spending time with your friends is my version of you having an evening with my mother.”

It was difficult to describe the feeling that ran through him at that moment; it seemed similar to the moment one first rides a bike or swims unassisted, but with some of the joy supplanted by relief. Like being the last kid in the class to kiss someone, and finally it happens, never to be undone and a marvellous line of maturity crossed later than it should.

4. Examples in literature

Epistle to the Romans
From The Bible

Know Your Book

Title: Epistle to the Romans
Author: Paul (attributed)
Published: c. 57 AD
Language: Koine Greek
Genre: Religious text; letter; treatise
Synopsis: One of the longest and most structured cases of doctrine in The Bible, this letter by Paul is addressed to the Christian church in Rome. In it, Paul speaks about righteousness and condemns those who use God’s image, engage in unnatural sexual behaviour, or are hypocritical in following law. He states forgiveness and salvation can be found by following Jesus, a truth for all since all have sinned, and followers will live under the law of God, not man, and are free to love.

Excerpt from Romans 7:

Do you not know, brothers and sisters — for I am speaking to those who know the law — that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime? Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. What term is given to a woman who lives with a man who is not her husband, according to the passage?
2. What makes a married woman free from the law of monogamy?
3. What does the passage say has freed people?
4. Is the passage taken from the Old Testament or the New Testament? How do you know? 
Identifying Techniques

5. What method of persuasion is used in the piece: ethos, logos, or pathos?
6. What analogy is made between marriage and Christianity?
7. The passage has two paragraphs. Why does it only need two? 
Text Analysis

8. What purpose does the the use of dashes have in the first line?
9. In the second paragraph, the term ‘him who has been raised from the dead’ is used? To whom is this referring?
10. What similarities exist between the structure of the two paragraphs?
11. What is the meaning of the last sentence? 
Provoking Opinion

12. The passage alludes to the rules of morality used in traditional Christianity. Do you feel that the Christian idea of seven sins and ten commandments is still relevant today? Would you change any of these?
13. Do you agree with the idea that a person is ‘bound’ to their marriage unless/until death breaks it?
14. Do you feel that it is fair to read the Bible and other religious texts as literary works? Or do they exist outside the realm of normal literary criticism?

A Study in Scarlet
by Arthur Conan Doyle

Know Your Book

Title: A Study in Scarlet
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Published: 1887
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; novel; detective; whodunit
Plot: Dr John Watson returns from the war in Afghanistan and finds lodging with the eccentric but brilliant private detective Sherlock Holmes. They go to a case in which a body has been found with the word ‘RACHE’ written next to it, and a gold ring beneath it. Holmes ultimately solves the case, tagging it back to events that happened in the United States. However, when credit is given to the police rather than Holmes, Dr Watson decides he will write about Holmes’s work himself.
Setting: Victorian London; Utah
Characters: Sherlock Holmes; Dr John Watson

Excerpt from Chapter 2:

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

1. The passage describes the human mind’s capacity as

a) weak
b) finite
c) burdensome
d) unparalleled
e) unlimited

2. Which of the following sayings or concepts best describes the ‘attic’ analogy of the passage

a) A gun without a bullet is obsolete
b) A candle will burn as long as it has fuel
c) Nature does not know its own beauty
d) Water will shape itself to whatever vessel it fills
e) A gourmet meal should only use quality ingredients

3. What is described as the danger of learning ‘useless facts’?

a) It wastes your time
b) You will ultimately forget them
c) There is no way to know if they are correct
d) They replace useful knowledge
e) Other people will regard you as stupid

4. The pronoun ‘he’ refers to

a) the writer
b) the reader
c) the general person
d) the author
e) Sherlock Holmes

5. A criticism of both the given passages from Epistle to the Romans and A Study in Scarlet could be that they are

a) hypocritical
b) joyless
c) unbelievable
d) manipulative
e) preaching


5. Tasks

Task 1: Write an analogy in which an emotion is described via an example to which a reader can relate.
Task 2: Write a paragraph using an analogy, in which a difficult concept is put into terms a reader can understand by using comparison.