The figurative language of Mark Haddon

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 similes and metaphors from Mark Haddon….

When I read the remarkable 2003 book The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time — about a teenager on the autism spectrum — more than 15 years ago, I recall being deeply impressed by the storytelling ability of author Mark Haddon.

Recently, I read his latest book, The Porpoise and I’m even more in awe of his ability to write. A multi-layered retelling of Pericles, with extraordinary flights of narrative fancy, the book won’t be to everyone’s taste. But take a closer look at Haddon’s figurative language:

  • He had unnaturally pale skin and a mole like a squashed sultana on his cheek.
  • His own thoughts seem to belong to someone else, running like ticker tape under the scene in front of him.
  • Palm leaves are black swords overhead.
  • And now the pain decisively arrives. It is hot metal poured into the broken bone. His eyes are full of fizzing light, like an old TV between stations.
  • He should get in touch with the police but the diamorphine is kicking in and time has turned to toffee.
  • He stands and walks to the table where the hotel phone squats like a black toad.
  • The stars are powdered glass on velvet.
  • Then relief passes through the malodorous crowd like a breeze through wheat.
  • The light becomes a sixpence. The light becomes a pea. The light becomes a grain of rice. The light becomes a single star. The light vanishes.
  • “Dead,” says Mrs. Brokehill. “Dead,” they repeat after her, like witches catechizing.
  • Hi oiled skin is coated in sand. He is the colour of ground black pepper.
  • Mesomedes is a dry little man with a trim white beard who rubs his hands together when thinking, as if ideas were a feast spread before him.
  • He enters the warren of the old market which clings to the side of the palace wall like mussels on a rock.