A street lamp threw a crooked stick of light…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a piece of personification by novelist Ian McEwan

I’ve recently become intrigued by the trick of personification. Why does giving  a human characteristic to an inanimate object, such as a street lamp, make it so more interesting? It’s still just a chunk of metal with electricity coursing through it. But all of a sudden that street lamp is fascinating! Take, for example, this lamp, summoned up by novelist Ian McEwan, (pictured above) in his most recent book Sweet Tooth

Through the branches of the chestnut tree and a gap in the curtains, a street lamp threw a crooked stick of light across the ceiling, and I lay on my back, staring at it.

What intrigues me is that many of us use the phrase “throwing light” and I suspect few of us even see it as personification. Yet it is! Here, I think, it’s more obvious because of the artfully crafted sentence. I like the way McEwan has the lamp throwing not just any old light, but, specifically,  a “crooked stick” of it. Doesn’t that make the visual image so much more compelling?

And, while on the subject of figurative language, let me cite another terrific image from the same book. This one is a simile:

My ignorance felt like a weight on my tongue.

When you read that sentence don’t you just feel the utter heaviness of the ignorance?

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