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Anthropomorphism in Literature: Humanizing the Non-Human

By Muazma Batool — Published on March 20, 2023
Anthropomorphism in literature gives animals and objects natural human traits, feelings, and attributes. Literature has utilized this strategy for millennials to make stories more relevant and compelling.

Have you ever given any attention to the identity of Mr. Fox from Fantastic Mr. Fox? Who, exactly, is Mr. Fox? He’s a real-life example of a cunning red fox with crazy ideas. If you’ve ever met one, real-life foxes are probably not as charming or intelligent as Mr. Fox, don’t work well with others of their kind, and can’t communicate with humans. Anthropomorphism, in which human characteristics are given to non-human characters, is commonly used in fiction.

Definition Of Anthropomorphism

“Anthropomorphism” (an-thruh-puh-MOR-fi-zm) refers to attributing human characteristics to inanimate objects. Whether or not we recognize it, Anthropomorphism is something we constantly do. The command to “hurry up” is an example of anthropomorphizing your computer.

It differs somewhat from personification, which employs metaphor to give inanimate things or events human characteristics. Pooh Bear from Winnie-the-Pooh, for instance, walks, talks, thinks, and wears clothes; these characteristics are often associated with humans. A. A. Milne would be personifying the wind but not anthropomorphizing it if he wrote of a wild wind roaring across the Hundred Acre Woods. Both may enrich your work by adding dimension and nuance.

We don’t give Anthropomorphism a second thought since it’s so common in literature, especially children’s books. Mr. Fox is, of course, a cunning fox; Winnie the Pooh is a shy bear with honey-colored fur; and Buzz Lightyear is a courageous stuffed toy who can communicate. Because Anthropomorphism has its origins in psychology, we may readily embrace these traits. Put another way; our minds have an innate tendency to anthropomorphize.

What Does Anthropomorphic Refer To?

The word anthropomorphic describes something that appears to have human characteristics. In Fantastic Mr. Fox, for instance, Roald Dahl employs Anthropomorphism to create the character of Mr. Fox.

When Should One Make Use Of Anthropomorphism?

As a culture, we are constantly exposed to Anthropomorphism through stories, films, and the media.

Religion and mythology are two of the first known contexts in which Anthropomorphism is used. Deities in ancient religions were endowed with human characteristics, so worshippers might relate to them. Even though they’re supernatural beings, the Greek gods nonetheless partake in human activities like eating, drinking, falling in love, dancing, and going to battle. Also dating back to antiquity are stories like Aesop’s Fables that employ anthropomorphic animals to convey moral lessons through story.

The use of Anthropomorphism is a helpful technique for fiction writers. You may use Anthropomorphism to create stories about the love between a dog and a cat or the conflict between a squirrel and a dog. A reader will see that the protagonists and antagonists are not behaving in a strictly realistic manner. They’re acting like humans who have been convinced that they’re a squirrel, dogs, or cats.

Incorporating Anthropomorphism into your work need not to be difficult. Simplification is usually the goal when employing it. Anthropomorphism is a valuable tool when you’re in a museum, and you don’t “get” the piece. The red in Rothko’s work may be read as aggressive, while the blue could be read as an offer of refuge. Attributing human qualities to inanimate objects improves their comprehension of them.

Why Do We Use Anthropomorphisms?

More than just a literary device, Anthropomorphism serves a crucial purpose psychologically. Because humans are such friendly creatures, it’s natural for youngsters to catch up on social norms and signs very rapidly. It’s hardwired into humans from a young age to pick up on social cues and other human behaviors. Mechanical and non-human activities, however, are not as readily apparent to us. Before learning how to ride a bike, a youngster will likely grasp what a grin signifies. Our innate propensity to attribute human behavior to the unclear remains even as adults.

To help us make sense of the universe, our minds may employ a wide variety of literary strategies, including Anthropomorphism. We also use metaphor and analogy to make sense of the world and convey its complexity. Using literary elements in everyday life also helps you develop a more poetic outlook.

Illustrations of Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is widely used in fiction because it facilitates solid emotional connections between readers and their protagonists. This is especially common in media aimed at kids. Mickey and Minnie are mice, Donald Duck is a duck, Goofy is a dog, etc., all with human characteristics. Nonetheless, it is not limited to tales for young readers. Poets and renowned writers have long used Anthropomorphism to give strange figures deeper meaning or a darker tone.

The Literary Use of Anthropomorphism

1. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm, written by George Orwell, is the story of a group of farm animals that rebelled against their farmer to establish a new society in which they could live in freedom and equality. The animals in the book are fully human in every way; they can think critically, are greedy, and can organize meetings. Orwell’s life depended on Anthropomorphism in this story. Hence it was a brilliant storytelling device. This novella is an allegory via which Orwell’s political views are made transparent. Orwell could hide behind the mask of his imaginary characters by portraying them as animals instead.

2. The Metamorphosis

The primary character in The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, is a person who has turned into a cockroach (or a “monstrous vermin,” as the original text describes it), making the story a clear example of Anthropomorphism. Despite his cockroach exterior, Gregor retains his human emotions and ideas. The plot centers on Gregor and his family’s struggle to accept his physical transformation.

Fictional Anthropomorphism

1. Beauty and the Beast

The Beast isn’t the only humanoid in the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast; many humans have been cursed to take the form of inanimate items throughout the castle. The French candelabra Lumiere represents all things countercultural, sentimental, and exotic. Cogsworth, the pendulum clock, is devoted but occasionally nervous.

2. Alice in the Wonderland

Both the film and the book adaptations of Alice in Wonderland are entirely Anthropomorphic. Plants (such as daisies, pansies, and tulips) and animals (such as the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, and the Dodo), and even playing cards (the Queen of Hearts) take on peculiar human traits.

Everyday Anthropomorphism

Companies use Anthropomorphism to make lovable mascots, such as Chester Cheetah for Cheetos and the Geico Gecko for their insurance company. Similarly, sports teams routinely send mascots onto the field or into the fans during halftime displays.

Examples of Anthropomorphism

Animals like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, brand mascots like Cheetos’ Chester Cheetah, and Disney figures like Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are all examples of Anthropomorphism.


Anthropomorphism is a powerful tool in writing that allows writers to bring non-human entities to life and make them more relatable and understandable to the reader. Whether it’s used to impart a deeper meaning, entertain, or create a memorable character, Anthropomorphism is an essential aspect of storytelling that can enhance a reader’s experience and deepen their connection to the story.

Content Creators

Written by
Muazma Batool
As a copywriter, Muazma weaves words into a tapestry of compelling stories that capture hearts and minds. With a keen eye for detail and a mastery of language, she crafts messages that move people to action and create lasting impact.

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