How Do I Recognize the Personification of Love?

Bryce Clinton

The key to recognizing the personification of love in language, literature, or speech is to fully understand what "personify" and "personification" mean. Once you have a solid grasp of these words, their use will be almost unmistakeable. To identify personification with regard to love, you also need to know when love is being referenced. This should be obvious, but in some cases love might be part of another metaphor or not stated directly.

Personification of love is often seen in poetry.
Personification of love is often seen in poetry.

The primary definition of personification is to attribute the qualities of a living person to an object. An easy memory aid is to remember that personification contains the word "person." Anytime something that is not a person is portrayed as doing something that a person does, you have personification; thus, any time love is represented as behaving like a person, or having the characteristics of a person, you have the personification of love.

Personification may be used in stories to evoke emotions in a reader.
Personification may be used in stories to evoke emotions in a reader.

In poetry, literature, and everyday speech, personification is used to make language more interesting. If one said that a "storm produced a lot of rain and thunder," this might be accurate, but it is not very lively. Using personification, one could say instead that "the angry storm threw buckets on rain on people's heads, laughing with thunderous cackles." Here, the storm is given human qualities and actions. It is personified as being angry, throwing things, and laughing. By giving the storm the actions and characteristics of a person, it comes to life.

The personification of love works the same way. Changing the expression "he was in love" to "love grabbed hold of him and wouldn't let go," personifies it. Love is portrayed as having human arms and taking human action. The same would be true if one said "love picked him up and threw him to the wolves." The possibilities are limitless and do not need to be physical.

Less physical examples of the personification of love might include expressions like "love was calling his name," "love is a cruel mistress," or "love waits for no one." Only actual persons can be a mistress, call out a name, or wait; therefore, these are all examples of personification. A simple technique is to look for descriptive language, then ask yourself if what is being described is something that a person does. If the answer is yes, you have personification.

Recognizing personification of love in other figures of speech like metaphors or similes can be a little harder. First identify the other figures of speech, then ask yourself if they also project characteristics of a person onto an object; if so, they are also personification. To use some examples, if love is represented metaphorically as a dagger, or an arrow, or the wind, and then later, the "dagger tears open an old wound," "the arrow squints at a distant target," or "the wind blows out its last dying breath," personification is happening. The subject is still love, but indirectly so. As with recognizing any figure of speech, practice makes perfect.

A simple way to determine if something is being personified is to ask if it is described acting like a person would.
A simple way to determine if something is being personified is to ask if it is described acting like a person would.

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Discussion Comments


@Mor - I think that's a little bit cynical myself. Sure it applies to some forms of personification for love but I think in other cases the point is being made that love can be random. In others, the author is simply trying to describe their own experience with love in a way that makes sense to them.


@browncoat - That seems to be a feature of people who are feeling sorry for themselves. They never think it is their own fault, so they have to ascribe human qualities to love in order to contend that love is causing all their problems. Essentially that love is picking on them.

In fact, I think this is what a lot of personification love poems are really about, whether they are positive or negative. When you give love agency you are basically saying that it chose to make you happy or sad or whatever and that it isn't something you have to take any responsibility for.


It might help to remember the tone of the author when you are looking for love personification in their writing. If they are very negative about love and happiness they are more likely to make negative comparisons when talking about love.

They'll compare it to a hard taskmaster or a weapon or whatever and they will act as though everything love does to them is deliberate and malicious.

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