Epic simile

Homeric simile

Homeric simile, also called epic simile, is a detailed comparison in the form of a simile that is many lines in length. The word "Homeric" is based on the Greek author Homer, who composed the two famous Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Many authors continue to use this type of simile in their writings.

The typical Homeric simile makes a comparison to some kind of event, in the form "like a __ when it does ___." The object of the comparison is usually something familiar to the audience, such as an animal or the weather. The Iliad, for instance, contains many such similes comparing fighting warriors to lions attacking wild boars or other prey.

Some, such as Professor G.P. Shipp, have argued that Homer’s similes appear to be irregular in relation to the text, as if they were added later. On the other hand, William Clyde Scott, in his book The Oral Nature of the Homeric Simile, suggests that Homer’s similes are originally based on the similarities of the similes and their surrounding narrative text. Scott argues that Homer primarily uses similes to introduce his characters, “sometimes to glorify them and sometimes merely to call attention to them.” He uses Agamemnon as an example, noting that each time he reenters the battle he is described with a simile. However, he also points out that Homer’s similes serve as a poetic device in order to foreshadow and keep the reader interested – just as the fateful, climactic confrontation of Achilles and Hector.

In her article On Homer’s Similes, Eleanor Rambo agrees with Scott that the similes are intentional, also noting that Homer’s use of similes deepen the reader’s understanding of the individual or action taking place through a word-picture association that the reader is able to relate to. She states that “the point of the simile is the verb which makes the common ground for the nouns involved.” According to Rambo, Homer uses similes in two different ways: those that stress physical motion and those that stress emotional disturbance.

Example

"Fear fell upon Hector as he beheld him, and he dared not stay longer where he was but fled in dismay from before the gates, while Achilles darted after him at his utmost speed. As a mountain falcon, swiftest of all birds, swoops down upon some cowering dove- the dove flies before him but the falcon with a shrill scream follows close after, resolved to have her- even so did Achilles make straight for Hector with all his might, while Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as his limbs could take him." - The Iliad

References

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