An Introduction to Pathetic Fallacy
Pathetic Fallacy is a literary device which denotes the practice of attributing human emotionsOpens in new window and characteristic to non-human objects or natural phenomena. In other words, treating inanimate objects in the manner that suggests they had human feelings, thought, or sensations.
Pathetic fallacy is different from personification, in which the latter uses non-human objects to compare with living things. On the other hand, pathetic fallacy simply attributes human characteristics such as emotion, and actions to non-living objects.
The word pathetic has an underlying meaning, which in terms of rhetoric, means “an appeal to emotions”, “imparting emotions to something else”. For example, the sentence “The somber clouds darkened our mood” is a pathetic fallacy as human attributes are given to an inanimate object of nature reflecting a mood. But, “The sparrow talked to us” is a personificationOpens in new window because the animate object of nature “sparrow” is given the human quality of “talking”.
Using a natural phenomenom such as the weather, as a literary element gained popularity in the literature. The weather can be manipulated just as a character, in order to heighten or underscore what is going on in the work. This usage was particularly popular among English poets prior to 1856, when John RuskinOpens in new window coined the term “pathetic fallacy” to describe the projection of human emotions onto nature. As a literary element, the use of weather — one aspect of nature — falls under this heading. Ruskin, however, used the term pejoratively to describe the overuse of nautre personified in the English poets of his day (161 – 77).