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The difference between anthropomorphism and personification is a subtle one, as each term refers to a similar assignment of human characteristics to a non-human entity. Anthropomorphism is a literary device that an author uses to give traditionally human feelings or actions to an animal, plant, or inanimate object. For example, the sentence, "The wind blew angrily, expressing the full extent of his violent rage," applies this concept, because the wind retains its non-human form while taking on human emotions, intentions, and a masculine pronoun. Personification works similarly and occurs when the writer allows a non-human entity to fully embody human traits. The Easter Bunny is an example of personification, as an animal becomes a total embodiment of human characteristics and abilities.
Authors frequently use anthropomorphism in writing to represent abstractions or metaphors in the form of a traditional object or animal. This device encourages readers to think about the subject in a new way. Historically, it has also contributed to the efforts of environmentalists and animal rights activists. These groups use this device to make people think about the environment and animals differently, with the idea that these entities have inherent value similar to humans. It is also sometimes used by groups like animal rights activists, who ask people to understand animal capabilities of reasoning, emotion, and feeling.
Personification is most frequently used in folklore, traditional stories, and children's literature. In these stories, authors give a name, set of actions, and a personality with motivations and desires to an animal, plant, or other inanimate object. Through this device, writers are able to universalize human traits and ideas. Stories that use personification as a literary device are typically written to teach people or to impart moral lessons. By universalizing feelings, authors help readers to understand that common emotions and feelings are shared by people throughout the world.
Anthropomorphism and personification are used frequently in both culture and literature to share lessons of commonality and to help readers create bonds with those around them. It is often taught that all personified characters are anthropomorphic, though not all anthropomorphic characters are personified. Many authors go to the extent of using personification because it clearly gives human emotions to a non-human entity, which might provide a clearer reading for audiences. Others prefer anthropomorphism for its subtlety, as some readers might dismiss personified entities as being childish or contrived. While each literary device differs in its application, anthropomorphic entities of any type can be used to further describe and illuminate a scene.
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