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[Detail] Woody Guthrie

Songwriting | Humor | Simile and Metaphor | Storytelling | Documentary

Simile and Metaphor

One characteristic of Guthrie's writing is his use of simile and metaphor. Similes and metaphors are comparisons that writers make in order to describe something. With a simile, the writer uses words such as like and as to create the comparison. With a metaphor, the writer creates the comparison by simply equating the subject with something else. In his letter of February 20, 1941, Guthrie uses a simile to describe the rain:

"It's still raining here. Fact it has been for 40 days and 40 nights, just enough to make me want to build a arc. Like Noah. Raining harder now. Started up like a truck loaded with potatoes rumbling over a bridge."

From Letter from Woody Guthrie to Alan Lomax, February 20, 1941 (page 1).

  • With what does Guthrie compare the rain at the end of this quotation?
  • What do you learn about the rain through this comparison?

In his autobiographical essay, Guthrie uses similes to describe a broken down farm house:

"We was a passing by a a house. It was a farm house. It had been a fairly decent one is its day and time, but it was vacant now. And the big slim weeds had growed up all over the yard. Windows all broke out. Porch was rotted out and a fallin sideways to the ground, like a calf that hat been hit with a sledge. The roof was a shingle roof. The old shingled was a sticking all slaunchways and some shingles up and some shingles down — and the whole cussed roof was swayed in worse than a swayback mare about to give birth to twin colts."

From Autobiographical Essay (page 4).

  • Identify the similes in this paragraph.
  • Identify the subjects of the similes and the objects to which they are being compared.
  • What is Guthrie saying about the subjects through these similes?

Identify the simile and metaphor in the following passage:

"You know pretty near it everybody is a making up all kinds of tunes all along but they just don't know about it.... Everybody makes up music and some folks try to harness it and put it to work just like steam that you caint hold in your hand... Music is some kind of electricity that makes a radio out of a man and his dial is in his head and he just sings according to how hes a feeling."

From Letter from Woody Guthrie to Alan Lomax, September 19, 1940 (pages 3 and 4).

  • What does Guthrie suggest through the simile and metaphor in this passage?
  • Why might a writer decide to use similes and metaphors? What do they add to a piece of writing?