Multimodal metaphor by Soesja Schijven

For this task, I made a metaphor that isn’t really that creative, but that I found interesting nonetheless, because it can go two ways. The image I selected is that of a finish line. In my interpretation, this can be a metaphor for both an accomplishment as well as for death. For both the meanings, it’s not a really imaginative metaphor, but I still wanted to see how this metaphor is interpreted the most, as a metaphor for accomplishment or as a metaphor for death. Because of this, I made a short film, showing the picture alone at first, and then asking the question what metaphor people see in it. Then, I put two kinds of music under it, first one that for me represented an accomplishment, then one that represented death. By doing this, I wanted to see how important the mode of music is for the interpretation of the metaphor.

The metaphor contains an image, a finish line, text and later on also music, so there are three modes working together, so it is a multimodal metaphor. This metaphor is a contextual type of metaphor, because it contains one element, the finish line, that is depicted as something else, accomplishment or death.

In this metaphor, mode is really important, because it is interesting to see how much of a difference it makes in the interpretation of the metaphor. Accomplishment and death are two very different things, and yet can be depicted by the same thing, the finish line, and this isn’t even such an unusual metaphor for both. I do have to say, however, that the medium in which I presented my metaphor(s) are steering for the interpretation of it. This is because it already suggests that the images with the different kinds of music are to be interpreted in a different way, or else I wouldn’t show it in such a way. I showed my metaphor to four people. What I was most curious about was how they interpreted the metaphor without the music and if they thought about only the one, or already realized it could go two ways.

I would have guessed that they immediately would interpret the metaphor as one for accomplishment or death, or even both, because I find the metaphor actually pretty obvious. I was surprised about the reactions, though. Two out of the four people didn’t really see the metaphor as being one at all, even though they already knew it was meant to be one. The other two did see a metaphor, the first saw it as a metaphor for accomplishment, the second named both accomplishment and death, so that was the least surprising answer for me. What all four people did see, however, was the interpretation of the metaphor I meant when the music came. The first one, they all interpreted as a metaphor for accomplishment, the second one they all saw as one for death. This shows how important another mode can be, in this case music. So, in conclusion, what I thought was a rather conventional metaphor for either accomplishment or death now seemed to be not so obvious for everyone. It did, however, immediately became clear with the mode of music, which shows how different modes can work together to make a metaphor successful.

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