Sense and Emotive Metaphors in I. A. Richards Theory

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I.A. Richards believed in the communication theory of art, according to which art acts as a medium which leads to the transference of an emotional experience from one person’s mind to another person’s mind. But, the successful transfer of this emotional experience is dependent upon certain conditions to be fulfilled both by the former as well as the latter. Richards believes that this successful communication maybe hindered by ten barriers from the reader’s side. The poet, he believes should have metaphor’s expertise. Richards was also of the opinion that “thinking is radically metaphoric” and metaphor have an omnipresent aspect about them regarding language. Richards also stated in his theory that commonality between the two terms which are being compared is very important because it’s this very commonality which leads to comparison and subsequently the very creation of metaphor.

According to Richards, metaphor is in its essence a comparison amongst two things which is done using a word differently than it usually is used. For instance, the phrase, “the bulb throws its light over the study table”, the word “throws” is used differently than it is usually used. As generally, the word ‘throw’ is not associated with light but it implies the actual act of throwing something. On the other hand, in this case, it is associated with light. Hence, in this case, the bulb is perceived as a person who is throwing something.

However, Richards is also of the opinion that this information about metaphor is not entirely true as it leads to the creation of a different view about metaphors. He is against the notion that metaphor leads to the addition of power to language. He believes that it’s not merely meant for the ornamentation purpose of language. To elaborate on this aspect, he categorizes metaphor into three senses. However, this categorization is done in an implicit manner. Scope is what distinguishes the three different kinds of metaphor. The first kind involves the least restrictions; the second one has more than the first one, and the third one has the most amount of restrictions.

By referring to the term sense Richards emphasizes upon the very act of a writer wanting to draw the attention of his readers towards a particular thing and thereby leading them to think about the same.

Richards also elaborated upon the importance of the meaning of words and how the meaning of words tends to change depending upon the context in which they are being used by the writer. He also mentions how emotions and sense are inter-related. As mentioned by Richards, “The sound of a word has much to do with the feeling it evokes.” Initially, it may come out because of the meaning that it produces. The understanding of this meaning results in emotions being generated. And, the meaning comes out because of the emotions that arise.

The distinction that Richards draws between a sense metaphor and an emotive metaphor is that the first one consists of commonality amongst sensations and the second one consists of commonality between feelings. This difference amongst the two is quoted as:

“In a sense metaphor a shift of the word is occasioned and justified by a similarity or analogy between the object it is usually applied to and the new object. In an emotive metaphor the shift occurs through some similarity between the feelings the new situation and the normal situation arouse. The same word may, in different contexts, be either a sense or an emotive metaphor. If you call a man a swine, for example, it may be because his features resemble those of a pig, but it may be because you have towards him something of the feeling you conventionally have towards pigs, or because you propose, if possible, to excite those feelings.”

However, it can also be noticed that as both the types of metaphors work in an emotive capacity and so both may lead to various emotions. Hence, it can be said that both the types of metaphors are a part of language which leads to varying emotions.

Richards has also been quoted as saying that, “ Originally language may have been almost purely emotive; that is to say a means of expressing feelings about situations, a means of expressing impersonal attitudes, and a means of bringing about concerted action…The statements in poetry are there as a means to manipulation and expression of feelings and attitudes.”

Hence, we must avoid an intuitive reading and also an over literal reading of poems. According to Richards, metaphor is an indirect method to evoke emotions whereas rhyme and other similar things are direct methods to evoke emotions.


Cite this paper

Sense and Emotive Metaphors in I. A. Richards Theory. (2022, Mar 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/sense-and-emotive-metaphors-in-i-a-richards-theory/



What according to I.A. Richards are the factors responsible for misreading a poem?
According to I.A. Richards, the factors responsible for misreading a poem are the reader's own lack of imagination and understanding, and the poet's own lack of skill in conveying his or her meaning.
What are the four kinds of functions language has to perform according to I.A. Richards?
The four kinds of functions that language has to perform according to I.A. Richards are representational, interpersonal, emotional, and aesthetic.
What are the various kinds of metaphor according to I.A. Richards?
According to I.A. Richards, there are four main types of metaphor: structural, linguistic, orientational, and ontological. Each type of metaphor uses language in a different way to create meaning.
What is I.A. Richards theory of value?
The value of art or poetry (and by poetry Richards means all imaginative literature) is that it enables the mind to achieve this poise or system more quickly and completely than it could do otherwise . In short, art is a means whereby we can gain emotional balance, mental equilibrium, peace and rest.
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