10 Analogy Examples to Study

Whether in literature or common phrases, analogy examples are helpful to study when trying to learn more about this literary device.

Literary devices help your prose have more color and vividness while allowing the reader to make associations. For example, an analogy is a comparison of two seemingly unlike things to help draw a conclusion by comparing their similarities. Unlike other comparisons, like simile and metaphors, analogies give more details about the comparison to help the reader understand it better. 

While there are many different types of analogy to study, the best way to understand this and other figures of speech is to look at examples. After reading a few analogies, you will be better able to spot them in the works you read or write analogies of your own. These analogy examples will help you understand how this literary device works.

Top analogy examples to study

1. A Name Is a Rose from Romeo and Juliet

Often, analogies compare abstract concepts to something you can touch and feel. There are several examples of analogy in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Here is a common one:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called.”

In this analogy, the playwright compares someone’s name to a rose. The rose retains its sweet smell no matter how it is named, as does the person regardless of what his name may be.

Romeo and Juliet (Folger Shakespeare Library)
  • Simon Schuster
  • Shakespeare, William (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 01/01/2004 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

2. Life is a Shadow from Macbeth

Life is a difficult concept to understand, making it a favorite topic for people who write analogies. In Act V of Macbeth, Shakespeare creates an analogy by comparing a person’s life, and its brevity, to a fleeting shadow:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

Because life is so fleeting, this analogy works. The reader can see the shadow flitting about on the stage, then disappearing, reminding the reader how short life really is.

Macbeth
  • Shakespeare, William (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 109 Pages - 11/20/2020 (Publication Date) - East India Publishing Company (Publisher)

3. The Crowd Is Like a Fisherman in “A Hanging”

Some analogies take a little more time to explain yet still compare unlike things to make a point. For example, in his essay entitled “A Hanging,” George Orwell describes the crowd gripping a man as they lead him to the gallows. The analogy is the comparison to the way a man would hold a slippery fish:

“They crowded very close about him, with their hands always on him in a careful, caressing grip, as though all the while feeling him to make sure he was there. It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water. But he stood quite unresisting, yielding his arms limply to the ropes, as though he hardly noticed what was happening.”

This analogy is also an example of a simile because it uses the word “like” to make the comparison. However, because it extends beyond just one statement but has a complete description and explanation, it brings more imagery to the reader’s mind and thus is an analogy.

4. Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates from Forrest Gump

Analogy examples
In the movie Forrest Gump, both the title character and his mother refer to life as a “box of chocolates”

Some analogies are short and sweet, rather than taking up an entire literary work. In the movie Forrest Gump, both the title character and his mother refer to life as a “box of chocolates.” In one of the most famous quotes from the movie, Forest says:

“My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Though this is a simple statement, it is an example of an analogy. The reader has probably experienced the feeling of grabbing a chocolate and wondering what flavor it is, so this is a good analogy. But, like life, that box of chocolates always has the potential to give you the unexpected.

Forrest Gump
  • Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinese (Actors)
  • Robert Zemeckis (Director)

5. Pulling Out Troops is Like Salted Peanuts from Henry Kissinger

Though technically a historian and not a literary genius, Henry Kissinger was famous for many of his analogies. One of his most commonly quoted is this:

“Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded. This could eventually result, in effect, in demands for unilateral withdrawal.”

This quote comes from a memorandum Kissinger sent to President Nixon regarding the conflict in Vietnam. He warned the president that bringing troops home a little at a time would create demand for more withdrawal, just like eating tasty peanuts makes you want to eat more. 

6. The Futility of a New Author from Cocktail Time

Writing a book is definitely challenging, especially when doing so for the first time. This fact is the source of one famous analogy in literature. In Cocktail Time, P.G. Wodehouse compares a new author to someone performing an impossible task:

“It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.”

Clearly, expecting to hear an echo from a rose petal at the Grand Canyon is foolishness. Thus, based on this analogy, the logical argument that expecting to see significant returns from a first novel is also foolish. 

Cocktail Time
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Wodehouse, P. G. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 07/01/2013 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

7. The Mystery of Life in Let Me Count the Ways

In his novel Let Me Count the Ways, Peter De Vries makes a comparison between life and a safe. He says:

“If you want my final opinion on the mystery of life and all that, I can give it to you in a nutshell. The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination. But the combination is locked up in the safe.”

In this analogy, the safe can’t be unlocked. Similarly, the mystery of life is something people can’t fully understand.

Let Me Count the Ways
  • Hardcover Book
  • De Vries, Peter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 08/17/1965 (Publication Date) - Little, Brown (Publisher)

8. The Push for Freedom Is Like Summer’s Heat in “I Have a Dream”

Speechwriters who are good at their job will often use analogies to make their words more memorable. In his famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” Martin Luther King, Jr., makes an analogy between the anger of African-Americans and the heat of summer in this quote:

“This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.”

Just like the heat of summer is unquenchable, the frustration of those facing endless prejudice cannot be quenched. Yet when freedom comes, it is like the relief of the cool autumn breeze. This quote is still used today when people remember the famous civil rights activist. 

9. A Needle in a Haystack

Finding a needle in a haystack is a nearly impossible task. This catchphrase is often used to apply to tasks that seem to be out of reach. For instance, one common analogy says:

“Finding a good man is as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.”

This analogy seems to indicate it is nearly impossible to find a “good man.” Though unfair to the male gender, it does make its point through the use of analogy. Most people can picture the task of digging through the hay to find a needle, but to no avail, which makes the analogy work.

10. Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic

This analogy does not come from any famous literary work or speech but rather from a well-known moment in history. The sinking of the Titanic was one such event. Sometimes people, when talking about something futile, will say:

“That’s as useful as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Since the Titanic was a doomed vessel, the futility of the effort is clearly seen in this use of figurative language. The phrase can apply to any effort that would not matter because the end result is a failure like the sinking of the infamous ship.

For further reading on a similar subject check out our post on examples of metaphors in literature.

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