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Continued Metaphor

Updated Mar 20, 2023

The Power of Continued Metaphors: A Rhetorical Device that Leaves a Lasting Impact


In the realm of language and communication, rhetorical devices play a vital role in capturing an audience's attention and conveying ideas with depth and creativity. One powerful and effective rhetorical device is the use of continued metaphors. By extending a metaphor throughout a piece of writing or speech, speakers and writers can create a vivid and memorable experience for their audience. In this article, we will explore the concept of continued metaphors, examine their significance, and provide real-life examples that showcase their impact.

What are Continued Metaphors?

Metaphors are figures of speech that compare two unrelated concepts, often using the words "like" or "as." They help explain abstract or complex ideas by associating them with something more tangible or familiar. Continued metaphors, also known as extended metaphors or sustained metaphors, take this concept a step further by carrying the metaphorical comparison throughout an entire work, rather than just a single phrase or sentence.

The Significance of Continued Metaphors

  1. Enhanced Understanding: By using continued metaphors, writers and speakers can offer a deeper understanding of complex concepts. Just as a metaphor simplifies an abstract idea by linking it to something known, extending that metaphor throughout a piece provides a consistent frame of reference for the audience, aiding comprehension.

  2. Engagement and Retention: Continued metaphors have a powerful impact on engagement and retention. When a metaphor is consistently carried throughout a text, it creates a sense of coherence and unity, capturing the audience's attention and holding it throughout the piece. This engagement enhances the audience's ability to remember key points long after the speech or reading is over.

  3. Emotional Connection: By using continued metaphors, writers and speakers can evoke emotions and establish a connection with their audience. The consistent presence of a metaphorical thread appeals to the audience's emotions, creating a lasting impression that resonates long after the words have been spoken or read.

Examples of Continued Metaphors in Literature

  1. William Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage": In his play "As You Like It," Shakespeare uses a continued metaphor comparing life to a play. The character Jaques delivers a famous monologue where he describes the seven stages of life, each corresponding to a different role in a theatrical production. By consistently exploring this metaphor, Shakespeare highlights the transitory nature of life and the various roles we play.

  2. John Donne's "No Man Is an Island": In his poem "Meditation XVII," Donne employs a continued metaphor comparing humanity to an interconnected continent. By asserting that no individual can exist in isolation, Donne emphasizes the importance of human connection and the impact each person has on the lives of others.

  3. Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers": In this famous poem, Dickinson likens hope to a bird that resides within the human soul, singing ceaselessly, even in the harshest times. By sustaining this metaphor throughout the poem, Dickinson conveys the enduring nature of hope and its ability to uplift and sustain individuals during challenging times.

Continued Metaphors in Speeches

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream": In his iconic speech, King uses a continued metaphor comparing the struggle for civil rights to a journey. He speaks of overcoming obstacles, climbing mountains, and reaching the promised land of equality. This sustained metaphor not only captivated the audience but also provided a visual representation of the collective struggle for justice and equality.

  2. Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union": In his speech addressing racial tensions during his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama uses a continued metaphor of America as a family. By consistently referring to the nation as a household, he emphasizes the need for unity and understanding, urging citizens to come together as one cohesive unit.


Continued metaphors are a powerful tool in the realm of rhetoric, enabling writers and speakers to convey complex ideas with clarity and impact. By extending a metaphor throughout a piece, they enhance understanding, engage audiences, and create lasting emotional connections. From the works of Shakespeare and Donne to the speeches of King and Obama, examples of continued metaphors abound, leaving an indelible mark on our cultural heritage. So, the next time you encounter a continued metaphor, take a moment to appreciate the depth and richness it brings to our language and communication.

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