Raw tyrants whose only kingdom is their own body…

Word count: 306 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. Today’s comes from English novelist Jeanette Winterson. 

I’ve heard Jeanette Winterson interviewed on the radio several times. She’s so engaging that each interview has inspired me to pick up one of her books. First, I tried, Sexing the Cherry, which I eventually abandoned because fantasy truly doesn’t appeal to me (the story is a kind of modern-day Gulliver’s Travels.)

More recently, however, I read her memoir, with the haunting title, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? The title is particularly unforgettable not just for it’s hyperbolic value, but also because it is something that her adoptive mother actually said to her. The mind boggles! Unhappily raised in the North of England, by poor, deeply religious, adoptive parents, Winterson was regularly locked out of her house and eventually suffered through an exorcism. Is it any surprise that she left home at age 16?

What is even more surprising is that she managed to find a way in to Oxford University and publish her first novel at the age of 23. I found her memoir compulsively readable and, despite the horror of her story, frequently very funny. She sees the humour in most situations and has a comfortable way around metaphors. Here is one that particularly appealed to me:

Babies are frightening — raw tyrants whose only kingdom is their own body.

As a mother of triplets, I’m exceedingly familiar with metaphors comparing babies to tyrants. I suffered through enough sleepless nights to concur. What makes this one particularly effective, however, is the adjective “raw” (isn’t that a powerful word?) and the P.S. — “whose only kingdom is their own body.” Winterson snaps us around with her astute observation that babies aren’t quite as tyrannical as they at first appear.

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