Analogies, similes and metaphors work because they allow a writer to present a complex idea by reference to something that a reader is already likely to know.
Plato wrote a work about 2,500 years ago called “Allegory of the Cave” in which prisoners are duped into believing that shadows cast on a wall are in fact reality. The allegory in this instance is that Plato used this picture of a cave with duped prisoners as the basis for explaining a series of philosophical concepts dealing with our perception of reality and what we consider to be real. Hollywood took hold of this and created The Matrix as a modern day retelling of the tale but without imparting any real meaning by use of analogy.
The difference between Plato’s work and The Matrix is an excellent example of good and bad use of analogy.
Plato used analogy sparingly and ensured that the concepts he was attempting to impart to his readers formed the core of his content.
The Matrix uses analogy until it is done to death and leaves the viewer confused so it’s just as well the special effects were pretty good along with Trinity and her latex covered backside.
So what is the difference between a metaphor, a simile and an analogy?
A metaphor takes something to mean another and is frequently seen in figures of speech. So if we read “He’s as stubborn as a mule.” we know that “he” is not a mule in any literal sense and is simply being compared to a trait of the animal.
A simile is a form of metaphor. Similes take two different things and compare them to create new meaning. You can recognise a simile as it will use words such as “like”, “as”, “than” and “resembles” and one way to remember a simile is to think “Similes are Similar”.
An example of a simile is “John was running around like a cat on a hot tin roof.”
An analogy is a more complex and logical presentation of two different ideas which lead a reader on to the conclusion. An analogy is not a figure of speech like a metaphor and is unlike a simile as it is logical rather than illustrative.
Analogy is a much broader concept than metaphor or simile, and it is an entire sub-section of philosphy and mathematical arguement as analogy covers shared meaning and shared relationships. Analogy is based on the idea that if two different things can be demonstrated to be similar in one respect then they may be similar in others.
An example is “My hand has five finger so I expect my foot to have five toes.”