Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Figurative Language: Using Words to Explain the Human Experience

Marching onward into infamy or enlightenment, from Phil Donahue to Terry Gross, is a school of journalism better known as on-air confessional. Here’s one:

“They made fun of my size so I feel ugly and awkward.”

“But you’re a perfect size 6,” says the show’s host, incredulously, eyes wide to underscore his incredulity.

With moments like the sample above, countless talk-show hosts have tried to unmask the human soul made raw by casual verbal slaughters in an effort to help us comprehend the life-long damage inflicted by bullies, malicious or stupid.

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Kate Atkinson accomplishes the feat in 53 figurative words:

“A little jab to the heart. You had to be careful of the jabs--if you had enough of them they could weaken the fabric of the heart, open up fault lines, fissures and rifts, and before you knew where you were the whole brittle structure could shatter into a thousand tiny pieces.” (Atkinson, Kate. A God in Ruins. New York: Little, 2015. Kindle Ed. 4950)

Using an extended metaphor, Atkinson describes the damage inflicted by unkind words and deeds on the human heart, itself a metaphor for the psyche or soul. Too many and the soul is in danger of shattering.

Reading Challenge:

Read A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.

Writing Challenge:

Invent a brief description for the good or bad delivered unto us by others. Try not to exceed 100 words.