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Literary Devices


I asked ChatGPT about the metaphors in “Row, row, row your boat.”  I’m reevaluating metaphors. As much as I would like to go with a strict constructionalist reading of the song, I think it’s darker. It’s darker in my stories. My seas are choppy and rough. My paddle is always possibly lost in the current. My boat is sometimes thrown about in the uncontrolled waves caused by other peoples’ boats. But, ChatGPT says it’s all pleasant and engaging. I may be in the market for a new metaphor. What are your metaphors in your writing? Or in your life? In your own internal cheerleading? There are some good ideas below the “row row row” discussion.


Per ChatGPT:

“Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is a popular nursery rhyme and children’s song that is often used for singing games. The lyrics go:

Row, row, row your boat, Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.

The song is a simple and repetitive tune, often sung in a round. While it’s primarily intended as a children’s song, some people have interpreted the lyrics as having deeper meanings or metaphors. However, it’s important to note that the original intent of the song was likely to provide a pleasant and engaging experience for young children.

That said, if one were to interpret the lyrics metaphorically, different people might derive various meanings. Here are a few potential interpretations:

  1. Metaphor for Life’s Journey: The act of rowing a boat down a stream could be seen as a metaphor for navigating through the journey of life. The gentle and merrily repeated phrases suggest a positive and optimistic approach to facing life’s challenges.
  2. Metaphor for Cooperation: In a round, each person starts singing the song at a different time, creating a harmonious overlap. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for cooperation and working together, emphasizing the idea that life is better when people support each other.
  3. Reflection on the Nature of Reality: The mention of life being “but a dream” might be seen as a contemplation on the transient and illusory nature of life. This interpretation aligns with philosophical ideas about the impermanence of reality.
  4. Childhood Innocence and Imagination: The song’s simplicity and whimsical nature might be a celebration of childhood innocence and imagination. It encourages a carefree and joyful perspective, much like a child’s view of the world.

Ultimately, interpretations of metaphors can be subjective, and the intended meaning of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is likely to be light-hearted and child-friendly. If you encounter deeper interpretations, it’s likely that individuals are adding their own layers of meaning to the song rather than adhering to any specific original intention.

I next asked ChatGPT what some good metaphors would be for the journey of life.

Per ChatGPT

Metaphors for the journey of life often draw on common experiences, nature, and human activities to convey a deeper understanding of the complexities, challenges, and beauty of life. Here are some metaphors for the journey of life:

The Path or Road:

Metaphor: Life is a journey along a winding path or road.
Meaning: The path represents the course of one’s life, with twists and turns symbolizing challenges and choices. The journey is about navigating through different phases and reaching destinations.

The River:

Metaphor: Life is like a river.
Meaning: The river symbolizes the flow of time, with its currents representing the inevitable progression of life. Life, like a river, has its calm stretches and turbulent rapids.

The Seasons:

Metaphor: Life has seasons.
Meaning: Each season represents a different phase in life—spring for new beginnings, summer for growth, autumn for change and reflection, and winter for rest or challenges.

The Mountain Climb:

Metaphor: Life is a mountain to climb.
Meaning: Climbing a mountain signifies the effort and determination required to overcome challenges. The summit represents achievements and personal growth.

The Garden:

Metaphor: Life is a garden.
Meaning: The garden represents the cultivation of experiences, relationships, and personal development. Tending to the garden involves nurturing and caring for various aspects of life.

The Book or Story:

Metaphor: Life is a book or story.
Meaning: Each chapter or page represents a period in one’s life. The narrative includes various characters, plot twists, and themes that contribute to the overall story.

The Journey on a Train:

Metaphor: Life is a train journey.
Meaning: The train represents the passage of time and the experiences gained during the journey. Different stops symbolize milestones and significant events.

The Puzzle:

Metaphor: Life is a puzzle.
Meaning: Life’s challenges and experiences are like pieces of a puzzle. As one progresses, the pieces come together to form a complete picture.

The Dance:

Metaphor: Life is a dance.
Meaning: The dance symbolizes the rhythm and flow of life. Different steps and movements represent various experiences and relationships.

The Marathon:

Metaphor: Life is a marathon.
Meaning: The marathon signifies the endurance and persistence required throughout life. Milestones represent achievements, and the race is a metaphor for the journey’s challenges.

Metaphors for the journey of life can be powerful tools for reflection and understanding. Different metaphors may resonate with individuals based on their unique perspectives and experiences.

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