- Pathetic fallacy
The pathetic fallacy or anthropomorphic fallacy is the treatment of inanimate objects as if they had human feelings, thoughts, or sensations. The pathetic
fallacyis a special case of the fallacy of reification. The word "" in this use is related to " empathy" (capability of feeling), and is not pejorative.
The pathetic fallacy is also related to the concept of
personification. Personification is direct and explicit in the ascription of life and sentience to the thing in question, whereas the pathetic fallacy is much broader and more allusive.
The term was coined by the critic
John Ruskin(1819–1900) in his 1856 work " Modern Painters", in which he wrote that the aim of the pathetic fallacy was “to signify any description of inanimate natural objects that ascribes to them human capabilities, sensations, and emotions." In the narrow sense intended by Ruskin, the pathetic fallacy is a scientific failing, since most of his defining paper [Ruskin, John. [http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/ruskinj/ "Of the Pathetic Fallacy"] , from "Modern Painters", volume iii, pt. 4, 1856. Retrieved 13 March 2007.] concerns art, which he maintains ought to be its truthful representation of the world as it appears to our senses, not as it appears in our imaginative and fanciful reflections upon it. However, in the natural sciences, a pathetic fallacy is a serious error in scientific reasoning if taken literally.
When Xerxes was crossing the
Hellespontin the midst of the first Greco-Persian War, he built two bridges that were quickly destroyed. Feeling personally offended, his paranoia led him to believe that the sea was consciously acting against him as though it were an enemy. As such Herodotusquotes him as saying "You salt and bitter stream, your master lays his punishment upon you for injuring him, who never injured you. Xerxes will cross you, with or without your permission." [Herodotus "The Histories" vii.35] He subsequently threw chains into the river, gave it three hundred lashes and "branded it with red-hot irons". [Green, Peter "The Greco-Persian Wars" (London 1996) 75.]
Literary critics after Ruskin have generally not followed him in regarding the pathetic fallacy as an artistic mistake, instead assuming that attribution of sentient, humanising traits to inanimate things is a centrally human way of understanding the world, and that it does have a useful and important role in art and literature. Indeed, to reject the use of pathetic fallacy would mean dismissing most Romantic poetryand many of Shakespeare's most memorable images. Literary critics find it useful to have a specific term for describing anthropomorphic tendencies in art and literature and so the phrase is currently used in a neutral sense.
It is a
rhetorical figureand a form of personification. In the strictest sense, delivering this fallacy should be done to render analogy. Other reasons to deliver this fallacy are mnemonic.
Ruskin quotes a
stanzafrom Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Maud" as an "exquisite" example of pathetic fallacy: There has fallen a splendid tear From the passion-flower at the gate. She is coming, my dove, my dear; She is coming, my life, my fate. The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;" And the white rose weeps, "She is late;" The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear;" And the lily whispers, "I wait." (Part 1, "XXII", 10)
Other examples are:
*"The stars will awaken / Though the moon sleep a full hour later"—
Percy Bysshe Shelley
*"The fruitful field / Laughs with abundance"—
*"Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty"—
*"Nature must be gladsome when I was so happy"—"
Jane Eyre", by Charlotte Brontë
*"And the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and black lines intermixed"-
Charles Dickenstaken from the novel Great Expectations Macbethalso contains numerous examples. The weather often changes to coincide with events. [cite web|url=http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_literary_devices_were_used_in_the_play_Macbeth|title=WikiAnswers - What literary devices were used in the play Macbeth|accessdate=2008-09-04]
The pathetic fallacy is not confined to fiction, but was a generally accepted convention of pre-
World War Iprose. For example, the 1911 "Encyclopedia Britannica" abounds in use of the pathetic fallacy even though it is ostensibly a purely factual work. For example, "Nature abhors a vacuum" (John Ruskin's translation of the well-known Medieval saying "natura abhorret a vacuo", in "Modern Painters").
In popular culture
Vertigo Comicsseries " Jack of Fables" depicts the pathetic fallacy as a human-like individual capable of bestowing anthropomorphic life and emotion to inanimate objects. Fittingly, the literary deviceof the fallacy has been applied to the character itself, personifying it as an overly sensitive man who prefers to be called "Gary—or Lance".
4. Robert A. Harris, A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices, Version Date: April 6, 2005 http://www.virtualsalt.com/rhetoric.htm#Personification
* Abrams, M.H. "A Glossary of Literary Terms", 7th edition. Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. ISBN 015505452X.
* Crist, Eileen. "Images of Animals: Anthropomorphism and Animal Mind". Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999. ISBN 1566396565.
* Groden, Michael, and Martin Kreiswirth (eds.). "The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism". Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. ISBN 0801845602.
Figure of speech
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Look at other dictionaries:
pathetic fallacy — n. [first used by J. Ruskin] in literature, the attribution of human feelings and characteristics to inanimate things (Ex.: the angry sea, a stubborn door) … English World dictionary
pathetic fallacy — noun the fallacy of attributing human feelings to inanimate objects; the friendly sun is an example of the pathetic fallacy • Hypernyms: ↑fallacy, ↑false belief * * * paˌthetic ˈfallacy f6 [pathetic fallacy] noun … Useful english dictionary
pathetic fallacy — the endowment of nature, inanimate objects, etc., with human traits and feelings, as in the smiling skies; the angry sea. [coined by John Ruskin in Modern Painters Vol. III, Part IV (1856)] * * * ▪ figure of speech poetic practice of… … Universalium
pathetic fallacy — Projecting or displacing human emotions and feelings onto things that do not have them, although they may prompt emotions in us. We are supposed to commit the fallacy by talking of angry weather and sad trees. But the descriptions may be apt with … Philosophy dictionary
pathetic fallacy — pa.thetic fallacy n [U] technical the idea of describing the sea, rocks, weather etc in literature as if they were human … Dictionary of contemporary English
pathetic fallacy — noun Date: 1856 the ascription of human traits or feelings to inanimate nature (as in cruel sea) … New Collegiate Dictionary
pathetic fallacy — noun An error in logical argumentation which consists in treating inanimate objects or concepts as if they were human beings, for instance having thoughts or feelings … Wiktionary
pathetic fallacy — noun the attribution of human feelings and responses to inanimate things or animals … English new terms dictionary
pathetic fallacy — noun (U) technical the idea of describing the sea, rocks, weather etc in literature as if they were human … Longman dictionary of contemporary English
pathetic fallacy — pathet′ic fal′lacy n. fia lit. the endowment of nature, inanimate objects, etc., with human traits and feelings, as in the smiling skies[/ex] … From formal English to slang