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Using Metaphors To Enhance The Reading Experience

By Author: Fred Price
Total Articles: 37

When discussing metaphors, which simply implies that something is written that has another connotation, I can't help but think of Joseph Conrad. And to give this brilliant author full credit, I consider him the quintessential simile writer. But this article is about metaphor as a writing tool, and HEART OF DARKNESS was considered by some as the model for APOCALYPSE NOW. And this is the first difficulty with analyzing metaphor, as chronology has to be considered.
To be exact, there was an 80-year span between the earlier and the latter work's presentation to the public. HOD might have been the model, but it certainly was not a metaphor for the later work.
Metaphor in the Largesse
An example of a legitimate metaphor is the James Waite character in THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS by Conrad. Waite's name in and of itself expresses a deep and lasting metaphor, as this has long been associated with the "white man's burden" as felt by the English. Waite was used as a homonym for "weight," as if the story itself wasn't intense enough. And the constant banter of the ship's crew is considered a reflection of mankind "as a whole." Heady stuff, indeed.
And Then There's Moby
Melville has always been one of my favorite and least favorite writers. I loved BILLY BUDD but I absolutely hated MOBY-DICK (and still do), as I always felt that Hemingway wrote THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA to show the world the way MOBY-DICK should have been written. However, by Melville's own design, the whale is emblematic of God, and therefore a perfect example of metaphor that is an allegory.
When Metaphor Is Undeniably Allegorical
Faulkner's A FABLE, for which he won both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, is the perfect allegory, since in this brilliant narrative a father sacrifices his son for the greater good. However, any metaphor with a spiritual or religious meaning can be classified as an allegory, and it doesn't need to involve the prime tenet of Christianity to qualify.
A Metaphor Does Not Need to Incorporate the Entire Story
A single passage, such as, "The semi lay upside down and crumpled in two, with tires smoldering and facing the sky as fuel spewed from its ruptured tanks and coated the roadway," is an obvious comparison to an animal that's severely injured and bleeding to death. A metaphor can be attributed to a single passage as well as to an entire narrative. It's all a matter of degree.
Metaphors Sometimes Occur Naturally
I've never been of the opinion that every writer sets out to write a metaphor. Often, some literary pundit will assign "metaphor status" to a section of a work or to an entire story and the writer is canonized, yet the metaphor was never a part of the author's planned creative process. I've talked to many authors who have experienced recognition for metaphors they never knew they had created as such. However, whether a metaphor is by design or developed by happenstance, if it indeed fits a scene or a storyline, the skill in achieving this is often emblematic of a quite accomplished writer, and the importance of this writing skill-set should not be eschewed.


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