Not sure how to critically analyse hyperbole? Dont worry! In this post, we will guide you step-by-step on how to identify and analyse hyperbole.
Welcome to our glossary of Literary Techniques HYPERBOLE post. This article is part of the English Literary Techniques Toolkit series for the HSC. In this article, we will explain what hyperbole is and show you how to discuss it effectively in your responses.
Some common questions that students ask are:
Okay, let’s answer these!
People use hyperbole regularly in everyday life, it is a central part of how we communicate. Hyperbole is the act of exaggerating something for effect. We often exaggerate things to make our stories sound more interesting or humorous.
Hyperbole has a different effect in texts depending on how it is used:
Because the effect of hyperbole will change depending on the context of the statement and the tone being used, you must be specific when discussing it.
Simply saying that hyperbole emphasises an object is not a strong enough analysis!
Instead, you have to think critically and further analyse it. You need to ask yourself what the hyperbole represents and search for its deeper meaning.
Hyperbole is an exaggeration of something, including events, characters, or situations.
It is commonly used to emphasise something, dramatise, or create humour.
It is also important that you do not confuse hyperbole with similes or METAPHORS.
Similes and metaphors compare one thing to another (which can result in an exaggeration).
Whereas, hyperboles don’t make comparisons!! They only exaggerate and overstate.
These techniques are not the same!
Hyperboles emphasise things by creating a more vivid image of the subject, which in turn, draws our attention to it.
Let’s compare these two statements.
I feel sad.
Nothing will ever cure me of my sadness.
Which one is more effective at portraying meaning?
Sometimes, hyperbole can be used ironically.
Simon is the best player in the world.
This can often come across as sarcastic.
As you see, hyperbole can be used in many ways to create meaning. Sometimes, hyperbole can even have a symbolic value. It is up to you to take another step and critically analyse it.
How to analyse hyperbole – A step-by-step process
Unsure of how to analyse hyperbole? Don’t worry! There is a systematic way to approach this.
Let’s go through the process together:
Now that we’ve got an overview about how to analyse hyperbole, let’s do it together, using an example. We will be looking at a Module A poem by Sylvia Plath, Daddy.
“Marble heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic”
… is a great example of hyperbole
We know that the persona is describing her father, but she exaggerates his qualities to make him seem more powerful.
Here, she describes him as ‘marble heavy’ and a ‘ghastly statue‘, which doesn’t just make him seem like a cold statue, but an ugly, ghastly gargoyle.
She then exaggerates how big he is.
The persona describes his toe as being as ‘big as a Frisco seal‘ (Frisco is short for San Franciso, California). And we know that seals are very fat and big, especially for the size of a toe.
We can also assume that his toe is also in located San Franciso, which is on the east coast of America.
So, when she describes his head as being “in the freakish Atlantic”, we know that his body basically stretches over the whole country of American to the Atlantic ocean. (The Atlantic Ocean is on the west coast of America)
To figure out the effect of hyperbole, you need to ask yourself these questions.
Let’s answer them:
The subject of exaggeration is the persona’s character. She describes him as being a ghastly gargoyle who is so big that he stretches across the country of America.
We feel a sense of unease because it is impossible that someone can be that big. And we also being to feel confused because of the persona’s mixed feelings about her father. Gargoyle’s are meant to be protectors, but we also know that the persona “ha[s] had to kill” her father.
When you analyse hyperbole, you always need to critically analyse it because it is not a high order technique.
Answer these questions to extend your analysis.
Now that we know how to identify and analyse hyperbole, let’s put it in a paragraph. The best way to do this is to use a T.E.E.L structure.
T.E.E.L stands for:
You can find a more detailed explanation of using T.E.E.L in our post on paragraph structure (this post is part of our series on Essay Writing and shows you the methods Matrix English students learn to write Band 6 essays in the Matrix Holiday and Term courses). Let’s use this structure to discuss this example of juxtaposition.
Let’s write this in a paragraph.
|Sylvia Plath explores the complexity of human relationships, and how some relationships can leave an longlasting effect on an individual’s life in her poem, “Daddy”. She uses hyperbole to make her dad seem more powerful and intimidating describing him as “Marble heavy, a bag full of God, / Ghastly statue with one gray toe / Big as a Frisco seal / And a head in the freakish Atlantic.” Plath makes her father sound like a giant. The size of his toe is exaggerated to be the size of a “[San Franciso] seal”, developing highly unnatural visual imagery. Plath then further illustrates his great size by saying that his toe is in San Francisco, and his head is in the Atlantic ocean, meaning that his body stretches across the whole of America, making him seem more powerful. This makes the audience feel unease at her father’s unnatural appearance, especially with the metaphor “marble heavy… ghastly statue.” This represents him as a gargoyle. This vivid, exaggerated visual imagery is symbolic of her mixed feelings towards her relationship with her father. She is intimidated by his power, which is emphasised through his great size, but she also desires protection from him, as seen in her reference to the gargoyles. Through this, Plath illustrates how certain relationships have the power to impact an individual’s life, especially those that are very complex.|
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