• Home   /  
  • Archive by category "1"

War Metaphors Essay

This piece is a sample essay from our first edition of The Township e-journal. To learn more about the Township, click here. 



In this essay I  intend to examine and evaluate some of the metaphors we humans commonly use, in particular those we use to understand argument. But, in writing about metaphors I am immediately faced with the reality that we are all so accustomed to them that we are rarely ever aware of them. In the case of metaphor, familiarity breeds blindness. When we hear the word ‘metaphor’, it may conjure  within some of us dreary memories of dust motes floating in the sunlight as some English teacher drones on, or perhaps it is understood merely as the counterpart to that which is “literal.” Often the term is used pejoratively, as if to speak metaphorically is essentially to speak of some imaginary, subjective-idea-world that has no connection to the real world of facts and numbers and hard data. 

But when you begin to study language more closely, you quickly find that metaphor is not just a poetic accessory or an optional trope You find that all of our language is metaphorical in nature. As Owen Barfield puts it in Poetic Diction,  “If we trace the meanings of a great many words...we are at once made to realize that an overwhelming proportion, if not all, of them referred in earlier days to one of these two things--a solid, sensible object, or some animal (probably human) activity.” In other words, the core of our language is metaphorical in naturein that it compares some abstract thing to something else which is known by the senses. For example, the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ originally meant  ‘stretched’ and so ‘straight’ and ‘wringing’ or ‘sour.’” Even the most basic ideas of human existence were originally understood in terms of laundry and milk. But these innumerable metaphors that comprise our language are mostly “petrified” metaphors, as Barfield puts it, frozen by over-use and familiarity, so that we no longer see them in their living, breathing, original meanings. 

Notice how quickly I am forced to use metaphors in order to convey my meaning. This is because metaphors are primarily carriers of meaning, or bridges of meaning. I have heard it said that in modern Greek the word for a moving-van is basically a variant of the word “metaphor”: metaphors carry meaning from one place (or person) to another. In language, we use pictures of physical, sensible things in order to talk about things that are abstract,or to talk about anything at all, really. 

Laffos and Johnson’s book, Metaphors We Live By, i effectively shows not just how pervasive metaphors are in our language, but also how influential they are in shaping our thoughts and experiences.The authors have compiled numerous examples of some of the most common metaphors that exist in our modern language (which I will draw upon throughout this essay). They begin by discussing some of the metaphors that we use to talk about language. For instance, we often unconsciously use what they call a complex “conduit metaphor:”  

IDEAS (or MEANINGS) ARE OBJECTS
LINGUISTIC EXPRESSIONS ARE CONTAINERS
COMMUNICATION IS SENDING

In other words, we speak constantly as if we put ideas/objects into words/containers and then send them ‘along a conduit’ to someone else who then unpacks those ideas/objects. Just take a look at the way we talk:

It’s hard to get that idea across to him.
I gave you that idea.
Your reasons came through to us. 
It’s difficult to put my ideas into words.
When you have a good idea, try to capture it immediately in words. 
Try to pack more thought into fewer words. 
You can’t simply stuff ideas into a sentence any old way. 
The meaning is right there in the words. 
Don’t force your meanings into the wrong words. 
His words carry little meaning.
The introduction has a great deal of thought content.
Your words seem hollow. 
The sentence is without meaning.
 The idea is buried in terribly dense paragraphs.

As you can see, these are common ways of speaking that you or I might use any number of times throughout the day--yet rarely, if ever, do we recognize that we are utilizing shared metaphors that are indispensable for anyone who wishes to communicate meaning. 

When one begins to recognize how commonly we use metaphors (instead of using them unconsciously as we normally do), one is likely to be astounded at how constantly our language relies upon metaphor in order to convey meaning. But one also will grow to realize how drastically metaphors can alter and guide our experience of life itself. The metaphors that we use in our language, and the metaphors that we carry in our mind, shape who we are, how we see the world, and how we treat every person that we meet. We often think that we have power over language--and that  is in some senses true--but there is a very real sense in which language exhibits a great deal of power over  us. 

Here are some examples of the "time is money" metaphor that we are so familiar with:

You’re wasting my time.
This gadget will save you hours. 
I don’t have the time to give you. 
How do you spend your time these days?
That flat tire cost me an hour.
I’ve invested a lot of time in her. 
I don’t have enough time to spare for that. 
You’re running out of time.
You need to budget your time. 
Put aside some time for ping pong. 
Is that worth your while?
Do you have much time left?
He’s living on borrowed time. 
You don’t use your time profitably.
I lost a lot of time when I got sick.
Thank you for your time. 

Lakoff and Johnson point out that, in Western culture, where “work is typically associated with the time it takes and time is precisely quantified,” time is “a valuable commodity...a limited resource that we use to accomplish our goals.” We don’t just act as if time were a commodity, “we conceive of time that way. Thus we understand and experience time as the kind of thing that can be spent, wasted, budgeted, invested wisely or poorly, saved, or squandered.” It is important to note that the TIME IS MONEY metaphor has not always existed in every culture, and is a relatively new metaphor to organize human experience it is a modern metaphor. It is not some a priori truth. There are other ways of understanding time.

There is a different, specific, metaphor at large in our culture, however, that I would like to spend the rest of this essay exploring: the primary metaphor that we use to understand argument? What metaphor  ought we to use to understand argument?

This essay was essentially sparked by a conversation that I had with my Rhetoric II high school class class in which  we were reading Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, In order to solidify an understanding of his thesis that “the medium is the metaphor,” we read together the first chapter from Metaphors We Live By in which The authors attempt to establish their claim that the metaphors we use structure our everyday activities, and so they use the example of the conceptual metaphor ARGUMENT IS WAR. Here are some examples of the way this metaphor ‘shows through’ in our language:

Your claims are indefensible. He attacked every weak point in my argument. His criticisms were right on target. I demolished his argument.I’ve never won an argument with him.You disagree? Okay, shoot!If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out. He shot down all of my arguments.

You  can probably think of many more examples. But consider this from Lakoff and Johnson:

“...we don’t just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument--attack, defense, counterattack, etc.--reflects this. It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structure the actions we perform in arguing.” 

They go on to point out that this metaphor is not the only way of viewing argument and challenge their readers to imagine a culture whose metaphor viewed argument as a dance where participants work together, their goal to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. Their point is that if we saw two people with such a metaphor arguing we would likely not view them as arguing at all for we would be looking for signs of war to signal an argument. Now, as we discussed these ideas in class, my students were dubious that we could abandon an Argument-is-War metaphor for an Argument-is-Dance metaphor-They felt it would lead to some ooshy-gooshy subjectivism where there is no real right and wrong, no winner and loser. One student rightly pointed out that dances often have one person who leads and one person who follows, which was insightful. But there was still an overall unwillingness to abandon our long-held and much-cherished War metaphor; after all, who hasn’t enjoyed the pleasure of smashing someone to bits in an argument? In Christian circles, we often-- and in my opinion tragically--have whole apologetics classes dedicated to teaching students how to do just that.

I began to think there must be a better metaphor to understand argument.  I couldn’t think of one immediately, but the thought stuck with me for days after the discussion and I found myself going back to re-read the passage I quoted above. Then a new thought struck me.

I have always thought of myself as fearful of confrontation and disagreement. I have a friend that I’ve always admired for his ability to be frank about his feelings and opinions. But when some kind of disagreement or argument is imminent, I immediately experience a very real and intense physical, bodily reaction: my heart rate goes up;  my breathing rate increases drastically; adrenaline begins coursing through my veins, causing my hands and/or legs to shake; my voice begins to tremble with the strain of trying to control the bottled energy that is bubbling up inside of me. I’ve always assumed that this is some weird quirk of mine, a result of some insecurity. It’s highly unpleasant.

Suddenly, everything we had been talking about in class came together in my mind: there is a reason the presence of an argument suddenly evokes these classic “fight or flight” responses in me. if an argument is a war, then I am about to do some fighting and my body rightly responds in kind. My physical responses to approaching arguments stem directly from my conceptual understanding of what an argument is and if arguments are wars, then my involuntary physical response to either fight or run away is a perfectly logical and normal response. We tend to think that the imagination cannot affect and shape reality, but that is simply false. My metaphor for argument directly and concretely shapes my experiences.

As I stepped away, so to speak, from this deep-seated war metaphor, to examine it more closely, I began to see things in a new light. How many times have you been in an argument with someone who simply would not see the truth of what you had to say, who would not accept your point simply because they did not want to admit that they were wrong? Or, a more uncomfortable question: how many times have you been that person? I know that’s been me. This is, I believe, a result of the Argument-is- War metaphor that is so pervasive in our culture: if arguments are war, then losing always implies some injury to pride--and we all know what lengths we can go to protect our precious ego. I would rather endure a 10-year siege rather than suffer the pains of defeat. It is so easy for arguments to be primarily about  winning or  being right.

It was these thoughts that brought me eventually to a new metaphor, a new way of understanding argument: an argument is a quest for Truth.

Think of what this metaphor entails: when we view argument as a quest for truth, our goal becomes  not to win, or to be right, but to find Truth with those whom we are arguing. There are still battles to be won on a quest(we don’t have to abandon all of the fighting metaphors)for there are giants, and bandits, and monsters along the path that leads to truth; there are many pitfalls and fallacies and enchantments that must be avoided with diligence and discernment. But perhaps the greatest difference between these two metaphors is this: if argument is a quest for Truth, then the people with whom we argue are not our enemies! How are we to love our neighbors as we love ourselves if the metaphors we employ cause us to fundamentally experience them as threats, dangers, and foes? If we viewed our neighbors as fellow-travelers on the road, then might we not be more eager to lend them a helping hand? To accept a helping hand when we have lost our way? How much better is it to strive for Truth than victory? Should we not rejoice if our brother is able to pull us from error and lead us to truth, rather than let our pride refuse to accept this helping hand? For it is pride that that the argument-as-war metaphor ultimately feeds.

The metaphors we use shape how our very lives are lived. We must not let our familiarity with them diminish our ability to examine the metaphors that we use. I want to change my metaphor--I need to repent of this metaphor I have used for so long and that has undoubtedly caused me to harm those I should have helped, to ignore those by whom I could have been helped, and to be cowed into silence for fear of humiliation and defeat. It will not come without some time and effort, I think, for the roots of this old metaphor run deep within me, and I find myself quickly returning to those well-worn paths in my mind. But in changing that metaphor within myself I hope to   help my children and students to understand that argument is, above all, the  pursuit of Truth.

I feel some trepidation even in saying all this, because in making a definite claim here about the deficiency of the Argument as War metaphor I am in essence making an argument--and still part of me fears that my arguments will be found weak or wanting by those wiser than myself, and I start to worry when I think that, in putting these thoughts out to the world, there are bound to be some who disagree with me and who will challenge my assertions. But I realize that this is only the old War Metaphor talking, and I find comfort in the realization  that I am not at war with anyone over these ideas. We are all on a quest for Truth in this life, and it is not good that we should journey alone. Let us rejoice together  when we find Truth, whenever and wherever we may discover  it. 


For more essays like this one join The Township, our community of like-minded educators. 

Metaphors For War

  • Length: 634 words (1.8 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓
     The use of metaphors are an important factor
with any piece of literature. Metaphors add color to
creative writings, also establishing depth. A story
without metaphors is lifeless, unable to compose
another way to view it. The term for a metaphor is a
figure of speech in which term is transferred to
something it does not literally apply to, this helps the
brain create a mental picture which the person might
easily understand what the character is feeling.
When a person finally makes the connection
between the metaphor and the idea, the story takes
a deeper meaning.

     In the story by E.M. Remarque, 'All Quiet on the
Western Front', you see a vast quantity of
metaphors to connect the characters thoughts
together. While reading this book, you may decide
to ignore the metaphors, by not truly understanding
the meaning they portray. In this, you fail to grasp
the emotions that the author relates to you in the
tale of the soldiers of the book. If you take the time
to appreciate what the author writes by using
metaphors the story will be more enjoyable.

     Understanding metaphors is not always easy,
many people get similes and metaphors mixed up.
A simile is nothing more then a baby metaphor.
You must be able to pick out a metaphor in the
story, no matter how minuscule. For even though it
may appear small, it might be a lead to another far
bigger metaphor. Through this, the intended
meaning will appear.

     When Paul the main character, refers to the
front as a whirlpool, this is quite a large metaphor,
with a deeply rooted meaning. "To me the front is a
mysterious whirlpool. Though I am in still water far
away from its centre, I feel the whirl of the vortex
sucking me slowly, irresistibly, inescapably into
itself" (Ch.4,Pg55) This is saying that though he is
not even close to the front, he still feels the effects
from his position. It creates the mental picture that
Paul is a boat in a large ocean, and far in the
distance the whirlpool is barely seen on the horizon.
Though slowly, maybe without him even realizing it,
he is being pulled towards the whirlpool. This is an
example of a metaphor and the mental images it
creates to help people understand the book.

     
     The author also has a cage represent the front,
"The front is a cage in which we must await fearfully

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Metaphors For War." 123HelpMe.com. 13 Mar 2018
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=77066>.

LengthColor Rating 
Essay on Christian Metaphors and Movies About War - Religion in Pop Culture Final Essay Platoon, directed by Oliver Stone, and "Saving Private Ryan," directed by Steven Spielberg, are two movies flush with Christian Symbolism. Both films feature scripture, Platoon opens with it, and in Saving Private Ryan, there is a character that often quotes scripture. While there are some similarities between the two movies, like having a Christ Figure, and a conflict between good and evil, there are metaphors that make the films different from one another. Platoon features more complex metaphors, and focuses on a power struggle between two characters that represent good and evil....   [tags: pop culture, religion, symbolism, movies]
:: 4 Works Cited
1876 words
(5.4 pages)
Term Papers[preview]
Metaphors For War Essay - The use of metaphors are an important factor with any piece of literature. Metaphors add color to creative writings, also establishing depth. A story without metaphors is lifeless, unable to compose another way to view it. The term for a metaphor is a figure of speech in which term is transferred to something it does not literally apply to, this helps the brain create a mental picture which the person might easily understand what the character is feeling. When a person finally makes the connection between the metaphor and the idea, the story takes a deeper meaning....   [tags: essays research papers]634 words
(1.8 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Metaphors That Justify War Essay - Metaphors that Justify War Truth Uncloaked Do you think we had all the information that was at the President's disposal when he made the decision to deploy our troops in the Gulf. Do you think having that information might have made you feel more comfortable about our involvement. Should our government decide what we get to know and what we don't. By in large, we hear exactly what our government wants us to hear. Knowing this, at no other time paralleled in history, we want the truth; we thirst for it like those traveling through the desert without water and we are tired of being manipulated and deceived by those we elect to serve our interests....   [tags: essays research papers fc]
:: 1 Works Cited
2551 words
(7.3 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Essay on Yusef Komunyakaa and The Vietnam War - Yusef Komunyakaa, the poet of war, vividly describes his vacillating emotions about the Vietnam War and his relation to it as an African-American veteran in the poem, “Facing It.” Komunyakaa, the protagonist of his narrative, reflective poem, contemplates his past experiences as he promenades around the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, struggling to conceal his ardent emotions and remain hard and cold as “stone.” He writes one stanza in a dark mood, and by using metaphors and visual imagery, he paints a picture with his words for all to see....   [tags: african american, emotions, metaphors]894 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Essay on The use of Metaphors - A metaphor is an influential feature of language. The use of metaphors is apparent in the world as it is used in contexts ranging from everyday conversations to literature to its application to scientific theories. However, achieving a standard understanding of a metaphor's theory or meaning, is difficult. This is because metaphors seems to straddle so many important boundaries: between language and thought, between understanding an individual word and understanding the relation between words, and between rational communication and mere causal association....   [tags: Literary Analysis, Solomon]2528 words
(7.2 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Metaphors and Conceptual Systems Essay - Studying language reveals one aspect of culture which is organized systematically. The relationship between categories, cognition, language, culture, and truth can be analytically examined in Metaphors We Live By. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that dictionary definitions do not adequately describe concepts, especially ambiguous concepts. Rather, we use concepts from a source domain (which are more basic and empirically real) to make sense of concepts within the target domain (which are less tangible and clearly defined ex: emotions, time, and morality)....   [tags: Language]
:: 2 Works Cited
2033 words
(5.8 pages)
Term Papers[preview]
Essay on Metaphors We Live By written by Lakoff and Johnson - Metaphors We Live By written by Lakoff and Johnson The road goes ever on and on. Down from the door from where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone and I must follow it if I can. Pursuing it on weary feet until I joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet and whether then I cannot say. J.R.R. Tolkien I recently read the book Metaphors We Live By written by Lakoff and Johnson. I had always thought that metaphors, when used to illustrate logical, objective arguments, poetical flourishes, the icing on the cake, the supporting cast but never the star....   [tags: Metaphors Live Lackoff Johnson Essays]857 words
(2.4 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Terrorism Essay: Metaphors for Terror - Metaphors for Terror The administration's framings and reframings and its search for metaphors should be noted. The initial framing was as a "crime" with "victims" and "perpetrators" to be "brought to justice" and "punished." The crime frame entails law, courts, lawyers, trials, sentencing, appeals, and so on. It was hours before "crime" changed to "war" with "casualties," "enemies," "military action," "war powers," and so on. Donald Rumsfeld and other administration officials have pointed out that this situation does not fit our understanding of a "war." There are "enemies" and "casualties" all right, but no enemy army, no regiments, no tanks, no ships, no air force, no battlefield...   [tags: September 11 Terrorism Essays]692 words
(2 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Essay on Metaphors We Live By - Metaphors We Live By In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson give the following definition: “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (5). An obvious focal point of Metaphors We Live By, and the idea this essay will attempt to further explicate, is the notion that the title implies: we live by certain dominant metaphors. Some of the most universal concepts in our species, culture, and language are not only talked about, but also thought about, in metaphorical terms....   [tags: George Lakoff Mark Johnson Love Essays]967 words
(2.8 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Essay on METAPHORS - METAPHORS I have usually found writing papers to be a stuggle, but this paper was different. At first I was intimidated by the fact that it had to be an analysis of ones own writing pertaining to a specific discourse, but then once I saw the opportunity for creativity, the paper seemed fun and interesting. It gave me an opportunity to focus on the things I like about writing, the things that to me make writing an art form containing beauty and freedom. Words are groups of mixed and matched letters which create sentences....   [tags: Essays Papers]
:: 3 Works Cited
1047 words
(3 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]

Related Searches

Metaphors         Important Factor         Deeper Meaning         Whirlpool         Main Character         Similes         Quantity         Feeling        




whatever may happen. We lie under the network or
arching shells and live in the suspense of
uncertainty. Over us, Chance hovers. If a shot
comes, we can duck, that is all: we neither know nor
can determine where it will fall" (Ch.6,Pg101). This
is saying that the front is no different from a prison,
not really protecting the soldiers from the danger.
Also that it is nothing more the a cage of chance,
you may live you may die, you have to choice, only
chance. Humans may believe in chance but not
depend on it. With this metaphor, it describes the
how harsh the front can be, creating a image of a
bird in a cage. With these metaphors the front
begins to take shape and become more real to the
senses.

     Metaphors help the reader produce a sense of
realism, which having the absence of metaphors,
you lose. If a someone's writing wants to be the
best, it must have a good usage of metaphors,
strategic placed, but if you abuse the function of a
metaphor, it horribly disfigures the work of the
author. People must realize to look past the shell of
the metaphor discovering its deeper meaning, like
the human, you must see past the way they look
and find what they truly are, only then will you be
able to understand them truly.



One thought on “War Metaphors Essay

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *