1. What is it?

Anthropomorphism is the giving of human characteristics or personalities to non-human, non-rational things.

It is often used to turn animals or gods into characters in a story.

It is commonly seen in fables, nursery rhymes, children’s stories, allegories, and fantasy.

2. Why use it?

To create a human personality for an object or creature that does not possess one.Make a non-human creature into a character within a story.

3. Examples

The duckling looked at the swan.
“I wish I was as beautiful as you.”
The swan, however, swam away, not interested in what the duck had to say.

The cat looked at the caged bird.
“You talk of wanting freedom. Perhaps I can be of assistance.”
The bird, however, was not foolish.
“I do desire freedom, but that is not what you are offering. Keep your lies, you fiend! I will accept the offer freedom when it is honest.”
The cat frowned. Then its voice turned cold.
“Perhaps I just open the cage and murder you anyway.”
“You could do that. And your master may never know of the crime. Existence, however, will label you as a brute, and me as neither a coward or fool. So go ahead.”

4. Examples in literature

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll

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Title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) (1832-1898)
Published: 1865
Language: English
Genre: Fiction, children’s story, fantasy
Plot: Alice falls down a rabbit hole and arrives in Wonderland. Here, she meets a variety of odd characters, many of whom appear to be mad. During her adventure she changes size multiple times, is a guest at a bizarre tea party, plays croquet using flamingos as mallets, and attends a trial. Most of the strange characters are friendly or confused, but the merciless Queen of Hearts wants to cut off everybody’s heads, including that of Alice.
Setting: Wonderland
Characters: Alice; The White Rabbit; The Cheshire Cat; The Hatter; The March Hare; The Queen of Hearts

Excerpt from Chapter 6:

The cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had very long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.
‘Cheshire Puss,’ she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. ‘Come, it’s pleased so far,’ thought Alice, and she went on. ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where – ‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘ – so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’
Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. ‘What sort of people live about here?’
‘In that direction,’ the Cat said, waving its right paw round, ‘lives a Hatter: and in that direction,’ waving the other paw, ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.’

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. To what type of cat is Alice talking?
2. How is Alice travelling?
3. Why does the cat not think it matters which direction Alice goes? 
Identifying Techniques

4. In what narrative voice is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland told?
5. In what way does the cat show anthropomorphic traits (i.e. act similar to a human)?
6. In one case, the cat uses logic (logos) to ‘win’ a discussion. What logic does he use? 
Text Analysis

7. How does the way Alice thinks about the cat compare to the manner in which she talks to it?
8. How does the author present Wonderland? What sort of place is it?
9. In what way does Carroll give the cat a mysterious, aloof, or even sinister aura?
10. Which words, phrases or actions depict Alice becoming braver as the conversation progresses? 
Provoking Opinion

11. Alice is a child meeting a strange character in a strange land. How would you react in her situation?
12. Within this book, Carroll turns the English phrases ‘grin like a Cheshire cat’, ‘as mad as a march hare’, and ‘as mad as a hatter’ into actual characters. Can you think of any other examples of a phrase being realised as a literary character?
13. Many of the characters in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are ridiculous or comical. Do you prefer books that depict serious subjects and characters, or those that venture into fantasy?
14. Movie versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have often strayed from the original text, generally missing out characters or changing the relationship between them and Alice. How strictly do you feel film adaptations should follow the original literary source?

The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame

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Title: The Wind in the Willows
Author: Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932)
Published: 1908
Language: English
Genre: Fiction, children’s book
Plot: Tired of cleaning his house, Mole goes for a walk and meets Rat. The two become friends and go boating. Later, they visit Mr Toad and, after Mole gets lost in the woods, Mr Badger. The egotistical Mr Toad falls in love with cars, but is a terrible driver and crashes seven times, leading to him being sent to prison. However, Mr Toad has no intention of staying in jail, not driving, or apologising for all the chaos.
Setting: The river bank; the forest; Toad Hall
Characters: Mole; Rat; Mr Badger; Mr Toad

Excerpt from Chapter VI ‘Mr Toad’:

‘Sit down there, Toad,’ said the Badger kindly, pointing to a chair. ‘My friends,’ he went on, ‘I am pleased to inform you that Toad has at last seen the error of his ways. He is truly sorry for his misguided conduct in the past, and he has undertaken to give up motor-cars entirely and for ever. I have his solemn promise to that effect.’
‘That is very good news,’ said the Mole gravely.
‘Very good news indeed,’ observed the Rat dubiously, ‘if only—IF only——’
He was looking very hard at Toad as he said this, and could not help thinking he perceived something vaguely resembling a twinkle in that animal’s still sorrowful eye.
‘There’s only one thing more to be done,’ continued the gratified Badger. ‘Toad, I want you solemnly to repeat, before your friends here, what you fully admitted to me in the smoking-room just now. First, you are sorry for what you’ve done, and you see the folly of it all?’
There was a long, long pause. Toad looked desperately this way and that, while the other animals waited in grave silence. At last he spoke.
‘No!’ he said, a little sullenly, but stoutly; ‘I’m NOT sorry. And it wasn’t folly at all! It was simply glorious!’

1. Mr Toad’s attitude in this scene is

a) remorseful
b) unrepentant
c) ecstatic
d) flippant
e) jovial

2. Mr Toad’s character is an example of

a) a master criminal
b) a heroic bystander
c) an unsympathetic fool
d) a lovable rogue
e) a mad scientist

3. Rat saying “if only—IF only——” suggests

a) doubt
b) envy
c) offence
d) sadism
e) anger

4. Based on this passage, what does Mr Toad find impossible to do?

a) Publicly admit guilt
b) Lie to others
c) Feign remorse
d) Be friendly
e) Enjoy life

5. Both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows use anthropomorphic characters to create

a) morality plays
b) fantastical adventures
c) kitchen sink dramas
d) biographic novels
e) allegories


5. Tasks

Task 1: Create a short scene using anthropomorphism. The scene may have one or more characters.
Task 2: Write the introduction to a story in which at least one of the main characters is an anthropomorphic animal or god.