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I've been sometimes a little confused on how direct personification must be. For example, consider the following phrase used to describe a river:

Like a snake it winds through the craggy mountainside.

Is that simply an analogy comparing a snake to a river, or is it an instance of personification/anthropomorphism?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Personification and anthropomorphism refer to representation of something as a human being.

In the presented sentence there's no mention of anything human; the noun phrases are a snake and the craggy mountainside.

Look for the human image before you suspect personification or anthropomorphism.

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Ah, got it. That makes sense, a mistake on my end. – Alexis King Feb 15 '12 at 1:10
  • A metaphor is when you say something is something.
  • Similes mean a something that is like another something.
  • Personification is when you make a thing, idea, or an animal do something only a human can do.

In the phrase, "Like a snake it winds through the craggy mountainside," like is the giveaway; it's a simile.

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Firstly, if there were a counterpart of personification for living beings in general, that would have been what the OP intended to say.

Secondly, if the sentence was instead:

it snakes through the craggy mountainside.

or even:

it winds through the craggy mountainside, hissing now and then.

You know it is akin to personification.

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