The Red Badge of Courage

What is the difference between literal and figurative?

The Colours blue and gray are recurrent throughout this novel. To what do they literally, and sometimes figuratively, refer.

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Literal language refers to words that do not deviate from their defined meaning. Figurative language refers to words, and groups of words, that exaggerate or alter the usual meanings of the component words. Figurative language may involve analogy to similar concepts or other contexts, and may involve exaggerations. So, the blue colour refers to the north and grey to the south. That would be the literal connection. Figuratively the colours each stand for a set of values and principled which each side had at the time.