Analyzing Examples of Personification in Poetry: Includes Poems by Nancy Willard, Emily Dickinson & Others

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Personification Mastery

What you should know about personification:

  1. Define personification–the giving of human qualities to inanimate objects.
  2. Identify examples of personification in poetry.
  3. Explain why the poet uses personification and how it relates to the theme of the poem.
  4. Write poetry using personification.
  5. Use personification to communicate more clearly.

I’ve done levels 1-3 for you. Once you are confident in your ability to complete these levels independently, you should be ready for levels 4 and 5.

Examples of Personification in Poetry

Poem: “The Cat and the Fiddle” by Mother Goose - Let’s start with an easy one to give you an example of poetry analysis.

Personification: The dish ran away with the spoon.

Analyisis: Mother Goose includes a dish running away with a spoon to emphasize the otherworldliness and silliness of the setting of her poem. Keep in mind the audience. Little children find cows jumping over the moon, dogs laughing, and dishes running believable and enjoyable.

Poem: “Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room” by Nancy Willard

Personification: “Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,” / said the sunflowers, shining with dew. / “Our traveling habits have tired us. / Can you give us a room with a view?”

Analysis: Sunflowers can’t speak…unless they’re part of a poem that has personified them. These two jovial talking sunflowers contribute to the poem’s mood. They seem like jolly good sunflowers, don’t they? Nancy Willard wrote this poem as part of a children’s book titled “A Visit to William Blake’s Inn. This is typical of her poetry about simple objects that hint at a larger narrative.

Poem: “She sweeps with many-colored brooms” by Emily Dickinson

Personification: She sweeps with many-colored Brooms – / And leaves the Shreds behind – / Oh Housewife in the Evening West – / Come back, and dust the Pond!

Analysis: The personification of the sunset is accomplished with the poem’s first word. Just in case you miss it, it’s referred to as a housewife in line 3. Using a common housewife to represent a spectacular setting sun calls attention to the wonderful work wives and mothers accomplish on a daily basis, but is only recognized through its effects (good children). It could also mean the end of submissive wives. I’ll let you decide.

Poem: “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

Personification: Ten thousand (daffodils) saw I at a glance, / Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. / The waves beside them danced; but they / Out-did the sparkling waves in glee

Analysis: Wordsworth reflects upon an experience he has with nature and embodies it with human characteristics. To the poet, nature is alive and full of joy. The poem compares nature to the Universe and the need for one to be one with it.

This post is part of the series: Analyzing the Elements of Poetry

Impress your friends and teachers with your knowledge of poetry.

  1. Examples of Imagery in Poetry with Analysis
  2. Examples of Similes in Poetry and a Study Guide
  3. Poetry Analysis Study Guide: Examples of Metaphors in Poetry
  4. Examples of Personification in Poetry with Analysis
  5. Examples of Poetry Using Figurative Language with Analysis