In Jimmie Killingsworth's Appeal Through Tropes he clarifies that "trope is just another word for 'figure of speech'" (121). He uses four examples of tropes that we can find in everyday language. Tropes help us to classify and study other functions of appeals. They suggest how one position (author, audience, or value) can relate to another (121). Modern rhetorical theorists insist that rhetorical language, including the use of tropes, is pervasive and unavoidable (122). Killingsworth proposes four tropes and the processes or functions each use.
His first example is a metaphor: "a trope that identifies a person, thing, or concept with a logical dissimilar thing"(121). Killingsworth suggests the reader thinks of a metaphor as an identification, a way of bringing together seemingly unlike things (123). An example of this identification can be seen in the opening line of "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley: "O wild West Wind, thou breath of autumn's being" (124). This line develops an identity between two typically separate things: wind and breath. By bringing wind and breath together, Shelley creates an important identity between human life and nature.
As a hint, Killingsworth asks the readers to view metaphors not as comparisons but as ratios. "Breath is to human life as wind is to the season of autumn" (124). Lakoff and Johnson say that metaphor if foundational to human thought; metaphors run throughout any discourse in a variety of directions, but they ultimately lead back to the body (126).
Since Lakoff and Johnson understand metaphor as the 'master trope', they treat metonymy and many other tropes as subcategories of metaphor. Many scholars admit that there is overlap and confusion when trying to organize metaphors, metonymies, synecdoches, and other figures (126). However, if a metaphor works by identifying similar things, metonym works by substituting a thing for a closely associated (contiguous) thing (127). An example of this would be calling Queen II of England, the "crown". Since the crown has nothing to do with the Queen's body or character, it is safe to say that metonymies are abut habitual associations rather than shared attributes or features (like metaphors) (127). Rhetorician, Kenneth Burke, suggests metonymy can be reductive, functioning much as a stereotype does, reducing a whole person to an object (128).
The next trope that Killingsworth brings to our attention is synecdoche, and its process of representation. Synecdoche also involves acts of substitution and is closely related to metonymy, possibly even a subcategory of metonymy. The different between the two is that synecdoche involves using some internal part or necessary component to stand for the subject. An example, "My heart is not in my writing today,"meaning your whole self, but using 'heart' to stand for the whole self (130). Synecdoche focuses on the most active part of the trope to stand in for the whole. It is a device of emphasis (131).
Finally, the last trope Killingsworth discusses is irony and its process of distance. Irony is a trope that involves interverions and reversals. It turns the standard meaning and expectations upside down. Like other tropes, irony works at levels of individual phrases and at the larger level of whole discourse. Unlike other tropes, it depends almost completely on contextual cues (132). Tone and insider perspective are also crucial elements of irony. In order for irony to work successfully some of the viewers must be inside on the irony, while others are oblivious.