The figurative language of Elizabeth Gilbert…

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

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 Elizabeth Gilbert….

I know that Elizabeth Gilbert — author of Eat, Pray, Love — isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I find her writing to be charming and lively.

I remember particularly enjoying her book The Signature of all Things, and I’ve enjoyed her latest novel as well.

Titled City of Girls, the novel explores the life and sexual mores of women in New York in the 1940s. In it, Gilbert displays her acute eyes and ears for figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • But why should anyone’s longevity surprise me, when I myself have clung to existence like a barnacle to a boat bottom?
  • The all wore the same shapeless wool skirts that looked as though they’d been constructed out of old sweaters, and that just made my spirits low.
  • There were some sentimental doe-eyed medievalists who were quite pretty, and some artistic girls with long and self-important hair, and some highbred socialite types with profiles like Italian greyhounds.
  • Whenever [my mother] passed me in the hallways of our house, she would nod at me like a career diplomat. Polite, but chilly.
  • How fast they all talked! And how alluringly they threw out abbreviated hints of gossip, like bits of bright confetti.
  • The two of us went digging for trouble with a shovel and a pickaxe that summer, and we never had the slightest trouble finding it.
  • Edna and Anthony were hitting their punch lines like badminton birdies right over the footlights — and they did not miss a single shot.
  • Then finally the houselights came up, and the audience gathered their coats and were gone like smoke.
  • And so I slid toward marriage, like a car sliding off the road on a scree of loose gravel.
  • I was not an easy dress to make (the old silk was so fragile, I had to handle it like nitroglycerine), but it worked.
  • There were a few nights with the authorities even turned off all the lights in Times Square and the Great white Way became a dark clot— shining rich and black in the night, like pooled mercury.
  • I treated my last pair of nylons with such care, you would have thought they were premature babies.