C. INTENSIFICATION OF A CERTAIN FEATURE OF A THING OR PHENOMENON
In order to understand the linguistic nature of the SDs of this group it is necessary to clear up some problems, so far untouched, of d e f i n i-t i o n as a philosophical category. Any definition can point out only one or two properties of a phenomenon. Therefore in building up a definition the definer tries to single out the most essential features of the object. These are pinned down by the definer through a long period of observation of the object, its functioning, its growth and its changes.
However, no definition can comprise all the inner qualities of the object and new combinations of it with other objects as well; a deeper penetration into the ontology of the object will always reveal some hitherto unknown qualities and features.
In the third group of stylistic devices, which we now come to, we find that one of the qualities of the object in question is made to sound essential. This is an entirely different principle from that on which the second group is based, that of interaction between two lexical meanings simultaneously materialized in the context. In this third group the quality picked out may be seemingly unimportant, and it is frequently transitory, but for a special reason it is elevated to the greatest importance and made into a telling feature.
Things are best of all learned by simile. V. G- Betinsky
The intensification of some one feature of the concept in question is realized in a device called simile. Ordinary comparison and simile must not be confused. They represent two diverse processes. Comparison means weighing two objects belonging to one class of things with the purpose of establishing the degree of their sameness of difference. To use simile is to characterize one object by bringing it into contact with another Object belonging to an entirely different class of things. Comparison takes into consideration all the properties of the two objects, stressing the one that is compared. Simile excludes all the properties of the two objects except one which is made common to them. For example, 'The boy seems to be as clever as his mother' is ordinary comparison. 'Boy' and 'mother' belong to the same class of objects—human beings—so this is not a simile but ordinary comparison.
But in the sentence:
"Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare" (Byron), we have a simile. 'Maidens' and 'moths' belong to heterogeneous classes of objects and Byron has found the concept moth to indicate one of the secondary features of the concept maiden, i.e. being easily lured. Of the two concepts brought together in the simile—one characterized (maidens), and the other characterizing (moths) — the feature intensified will be more inherent in the latter than in the former. Moreover, the object characterized is seen in quite a new and unexpected light, because the writer, as it were, imposes this feature on it.
Similes forcibly set one object against another regardless of the fact that they may be completely alien to each other. And without our being aware of it, the simile gives rise to a new understanding of the object characterizing as well as of the object characterized.
The properties of an object may be viewed from different angles, for example, its state, actions, manners, etc. Accordingly, similes may be based on adjective-attributes, adverb-modifiers, verb-predicates, etc.
Similes have formal elements in their structure: connective words such as like, as, such~as~as~if, seem. Here are some examples of similes taken from various sources and illustrating the variety of structural designs of this stylistic device.
"His mind was restless, but it worked perversely and thoughts jerked through his brain like the misfiring of a defective carburetor." (Maugham)
The structure of this simile is interesting, for it is sustained. Let us analyse it. The word 'jerked' in the micro-context, i.e. in combination with 'thoughts' is a metaphor, which led to the simile 'like the misfirings of a defective carburettor' where the verb to jerk carries its direct logical meaning. So the linking notion is the movement jerking which brings to the author's mind a resemblance between the working of the man's brain and the badly working, i.e. misfiring, carburettor. In other words, it is action that is described by means of a simile.
"It was that moment of the year when the countryside seems to faint from its own loveliness, from the intoxication of its scents and sounds." (J. Galsworthy)
This is an example of a simile which is half a metaphor. If not for the structural word 'seems', we would call it a metaphor. Indeed, if we drop the word 'seems' and say, "the countryside faints from...," the clue-word 'faint' becomes a metaphor. But the word 'seems' keeps apart the notions of stillness and fainting. It is a simile where the second member—the human being—is only suggested by means of the concept faint.
The semantic nature of the simile-forming elements seem and as // is such that they only remotely suggest resemblance. Quite different are the connectives like and as. These are more categorical and establish quite straightforwardly the analogy between the two objects in question.
Sometimes the simile-forming like is placed at the end of the phrase almost merging with it and becoming half-suffix, for example:
"Emily Barton was very pink, very Dresden-china-shepherdess like."
In simple non-figurative language, it will assume the following form:
"Emily Barton was very pink, and looked like a Dresden-china-shepherdess."
Similes may suggest analogies in the character of actions performed. In this case the two members of the structural design of the simile will resemble each other through the actions they perform. Thus:
"The Liberals have plunged for entry without considering its effects, while the Labour leaders like cautious bathers have put a timorous toe into the water and promptly withdrawn it."
The simile in this passage from a newspaper article 'like cautious bathers' is based on the simultaneous realization of the two meanings of the word plunge. The primary meaning to throw oneself into the water'—prompted the figurative periphrasis 'have put a timorous toe into the water and promptly withdrawn it' standing for 'have abstained from taking action.'
In the English language there is a long list of hackneyed similes pointing out the analogy between the various qualities, states or actions of a human being and the animals supposed to be the bearers of the given quality, etc., for example:
treacherous as a snake, sly as a fox, busy, as a bee, industrious as an ant, blind as a bat, faithful as a dog, to work like a horse, to be led like a sheep, to fly like a bird, to swim like a duck, stubborn as a guile, hungry as a bear, thirsty as a camel, to act like a puppy, playful as a kitten, vain (proud) as a peacock, slow as a tortoise and many others of the same type.
These combinations, however, have ceased to be genuine similes and have become clichés (see p. 177) in which the second component has become merely an adverbial intensifier. Its logical meaning is only vaguely perceived.