What is Personification - Uses and Examples in Movies

July 8, 2024

Have you ever heard someone say "the wind whispered" or "time flew by"? If so, you've encountered personification! But what exactly is it?

Let's dive deeper into what personification really means.

Personification is a figure of speech that gives human qualities to nonhuman things. It's like magic that brings objects, ideas, or animals to life by making them act like people.

Personification definition

What is personification?

Personification is a way of describing something that's not human as if it were. It's when we talk about things as if they have feelings, thoughts, or can do things only humans can do.
For example, saying "the flowers danced in the breeze" gives the flowers the human ability to dance.

Personification examples  

  • The sun smiled down on the picnickers.
  • The old car groaned as it started up.
  • Opportunity knocked at his door.

Why is personification used?

Writers and speakers use personification for many reasons. It helps make ideas more relatable, adds color to descriptions, and can make abstract concepts easier to understand.

What is personification used for?

Now that we know what personification is, let's explore why it's such a popular tool in writing and speaking.

1. Explain concepts more directly

Personification can make complex ideas easier to grasp. For instance, saying "inflation ate away at their savings" helps people picture the effects of inflation more clearly than a dry economic explanation.

2. Energize the text

Adding personification can make writing more lively and interesting. Compare "it was windy" to "the wind howled through the trees." The second one creates a more vivid picture in your mind, right?

3. Set the scene

Writers often use personification to create a mood or atmosphere. Saying "the fog crept in on little cat feet" (a famous line by Carl Sandburg) gives a sense of quiet and stealth that sets a particular scene.

Learn More: What is the Climax of the story?

Real-world personification examples

Real-world personification examples Personification isn't just for poetry and stories. It's a tool we use in everyday life to make our language more colorful and our ideas more relatable. Let's explore some common areas where personification shows up:

In advertising:

"Our products are begging to be bought!" This makes the products seem eager and desirable. "Hunger calls. Answer with Snickers." This ad personifies hunger as something that can call out to you. "M&M's: Melts in your mouth, not in your hand." While subtle, this implies the candy has a choice about where it melts.

In weather reports:

"The storm is headed our way." This gives the storm intention, as if it's deliberately moving towards us. "The sun will make an appearance this afternoon." This portrays the sun as an actor taking the stage. "We're in for a soggy week as rain refuses to leave the area." This personifies rain as a stubborn guest.

In sports commentary:

"The ball refused to go in the net." This gives the ball a will of its own, adding drama to a near miss. "The rookie is hungry for his first championship." Hunger here represents strong desire. "The crowd roared as the home team took the field." While crowds are made of people, this treats the entire crowd as a single entity with a lion-like voice.

In business:

"The market is nervous about the new regulations." This gives the market human emotions. "Our company grew rapidly in its early years." Companies are often described as if they're living organisms. "The merger gave birth to a new corporate giant." This uses human birth as a metaphor for creating a new company.

In everyday conversation:

"My car wasn't cooperating this morning." This implies the car has a will of its own. "The cookies are calling my name." This gives the cookies the ability to call out, representing temptation. "The to-do list is staring at me." This personifies the list as having eyes, emphasizing a feeling of pressure.

Learn More: What is a Static Character?

Real-world personification examples in movies

Real-world personification examples in movies Personification isn't just for books and poetry. It's a powerful tool in visual storytelling too, especially in movies. Let's explore how filmmakers use personification to bring their stories to life:

In animated films:

  • "Beauty and the Beast" (1991): Household objects like Lumière the candelabra and Mrs. Potts the teapot are given human personalities and voices.
  •  "Cars" (2006): The entire movie is based on personifying vehicles, giving them eyes, mouths, and distinct personalities. 
  • "Inside Out" (2015): Emotions like Joy, Sadness, and Anger are personified as characters, helping viewers understand complex psychological concepts.

In nature documentaries:

  • "March of the Penguins" (2005): The narration often personifies the penguins, describing their journey as if they have human motivations and emotions. 
  • "Planet Earth" series: While not strictly personification, the way David Attenborough describes animal behavior often attributes human-like qualities to wildlife.

In horror films:

  • "The Amityville Horror" (1979): The house is portrayed as a malevolent entity, almost as if it's alive and evil.
  •  "Christine" (1983): Based on Stephen King's novel, this film personifies a car as a jealous, possessive entity.

In fantasy and science fiction:

  • "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy: The One Ring is often described as having a will of its own, wanting to return to its master. 
  • "Interstellar" (2014): The personification of love as a force that transcends time and space is a key theme.

In superhero movies:

  • "Spider-Man" (2002): Peter Parker says, "My spider-sense is tingling," personifying his intuition as a separate entity. 
  • "Thor" (2011): Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, is often treated as if it has its own will, choosing who is worthy to wield it.

In romantic comedies:

  • "500 Days of Summer" (2009): The narrator personifies fate, saying, "This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story." 
  • "Amelie" (2001): The narrator often personifies inanimate objects in Amelie's world, giving them thoughts and feelings.

In sports films:

  • "Field of Dreams" (1989): The baseball field is almost a character itself, with a mystical ability to bring players from the past. 
  • "Cast Away" (2000): While not strictly personification, the volleyball "Wilson" becomes a character through the protagonist's personification of it.

In musicals:

  • "Mary Poppins" (1964): The character sings "A Spoonful of Sugar," personifying medicine as something that can behave sweetly. 
  • "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993): Holidays are personified as towns with their own residents and personalities.

These examples show how personification in movies goes beyond just dialogue. Filmmakers use visual cues, music, and narrative techniques to give human qualities to non-human entities. This helps create memorable characters, explain complex ideas, and forge emotional connections with the audience.

Learn More: What is an Anecdote?


Sometimes personification gets mixed up with other figures of speech. Let's clear up the confusion.

Anthropomorphism vs personification

These two are close cousins, but there's a key difference. Personification gives human traits to nonhuman things, but the things stay non-human. Anthropomorphism goes a step further and turns non-human things into human-like characters.

For example:

  • Personification: "The trees whispered secrets to each other."
  • Anthropomorphism: The talking trees in "The Lord of the Rings" movies.

Metaphor vs personification

A metaphor compares two unlike things by saying one is the other. Personification can be a type of metaphor, but not all metaphors are personification.

For example:

  • Metaphor: "Life is a roller coaster."
  • Personification: "Life threw him a curveball."

Personification vs onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds like what it describes (like "buzz" or "splash"). Personification might use onomatopoeia, but they're different things.

For example:

  • Onomatopoeia: "The bees buzzed."
  • Personification: "The bees gossiped as they flew from flower to flower."

Learn More: What is a Story Mountain?

Closing Thoughts

Personification is a powerful tool that brings life and color to language. It helps us understand complex ideas, makes writing more engaging, and can create vivid images in our minds. From poetry to everyday speech, personification is all around us, making our world a little more alive and a lot more interesting.

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