The figurative language of Alice Miller

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors and similes from Alice Miller…

Alice Miller is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the International Institute of Modern Letters. She has worked as an historian, a poetry lecturer, and a writer and editor for the United Nations.

Her first novel, More Miracle Than Bird, offers a fictionalized retelling of the relationship — and ultimate marriage — between W. B. Yeats and Georgie Hyde-Lees. But more than the story itself, I appreciated Miller’s superb command of figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • The matron demonstrated the sort of posture that made you question your own.
  • Georgie was making one of the beds when a young lady approached her, pretty, her hair pale as cooked egg-white, wearing an expensive silk shirt and skit, standing in a fog of perfume.
  • The woman was extremely tall, and had an arch expression, like a foal that has learned to gallop and is puzzled by why you are still lying in the grass.
  • She had gone up to the top deck to watch the sea restlessly push past, and the foam gather along the boat’s edge like rough lace, while black smoke gushed from the steamer.
  • She went down the steps of the house and into the dark street, where the other houses looked closed off, like faces turned away from her.
  • The city felt like a stage set as though the houses were being put up as she walked, and if she could only move fast enough, she would walk past these bits of cardboard and into nothing.
  • She walked over to the coat stand, and in the half-light she could just see, under the stand, the grotesque chair with the stuffing coming out of the arms, as if it were stuck in the process of vomiting parts of itself.
  • Still she felt the grittiness of shame, and each time she thought it might have lessened, she felt it shift and dig insider her, as if her body were a bag filled with sharp objects.
  • The trees were shifting around like giant hands, grasping at air.
  • She looked up and there it was: a giant ship, from below, more grey than silver, the curve of it like a pregnant belly. A zeppelin!
  • The storm was as bad as the newspapers said. In the morning, they would see massive trees uprooted, wrenched out of the ground as if the soil had rejected them.