Difference Between Personification and Anthropomorphism

Google Image Search

Might not be more for me to do beyond showing that image, which shows the key differences.  I’ll just go into a bit more detail.

Abstract vs Real

Personification is used for abstract traits and even giving human traits to concepts with no physical form.  For example, giving something like love a human trait would be personification because you’re not turning it into a physical object.  Once you do that, it becomes closer to anthropomorphism or just a human embodiment of the emotion, which is always a visible and clear change.  With personification, you need to think beyond what you see to make the connection if you were actually there.  A lightning bolt dancing through the sky in personification is merely traveling as usual.  With anthropomorphism, the lightning bolt would be doing a recognizable dance like a cha-cha or the Hammer Dance.  There wouldn’t be a question of what’s going on in the second scenario while the first is open to interpretation by those who are there.

Imagery vs Physicality

This connects to the previous category, but we’re talking of use.  Personification is used to create a vivid imagery.  It enhances the exposition and gives a more enticing description of what is going on.  You could say that it’s primarily about setting and creating a specific atmosphere. Anthropomorphism is about character and world-building.  A bear who can talk like a human is an actual character in the story instead of a set piece used to enhance the setting.  Because of this, personification is stationary in that it gets used once and things move on.  The descriptor has done its job.  Anthropomorphism has be carried throughout the entire story even if the associated characters aren’t there.  It establishes a key aspect of the world that needs to be maintained because these are physical and mental realities.

Figurative vs Literal

Okay, so I guess we’re really just repeating ourselves here.  I’ll use this to sum up:

  1. Personification is colorful imagery to bring depth to an exposition, but the traits are not actually there.  A person viewing this in reality wouldn’t necessarily think that an animal is grinning like a human or the wind is howling like it stubbed its toe.  They may have other descriptions.  This means it is figurative in nature.
  2. Anthropomorphism is what you actually would see or hear if you were in the story.  It doesn’t get shaky about the hearing thing because some stories have it that humans can’t understand animals.  Still, if you were another animal, you would understand what is being said.  So, you’re literally seeing or hearing human traits coming out of these animals and objects.  There is no question that they are really doing it like with personification.

And there you have it.  Hope everyone enjoyed the topic for this week.  Thoughts?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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12 Responses to Difference Between Personification and Anthropomorphism

  1. L. Marie says:

    This is a really helpful discussion of the differences! I learned something today! Zootopia is a clear example of anthropomorphism, since the animals build cities, wear clothes, walk upright, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. V.M.Sang says:

    Thanks for making this so clear, Charles. I didn’t really understand the difference until today. Now I do.


  3. I enjoyed the weekly topic. I tend to use a lot of anthropomorphism in my books. Everything from a talking yak to root monsters to the hat. I might get close to personification via the interaction with animals in my current WIP. If it happens, fine, if not that’s fine, too.


  4. Thanks for this very interesting discussion. It’s now more clear to me, and i can work on. Have a beautiful week! xx Michael


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