With a little frown shirring and ruching her forehead…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about some metaphors and similes from Mary McCarthy…

I first read the 1963 novel, The Group, by Mary McCarthy, when I was 20 years old. I remember enjoying it but recall no other details. Something pressed me to read it again and I did, while on vacation last week.

To me, it now appears to be a historical novel. Following the post-college lives of eight class of ’33 Vassar graduates, the book skewers  Ivy League society, 1930s child-rearing practices and sexual double-standards. Men are portrayed as tiresome oafs.

I found much of the writing style a bit dated, although frequently amusing. And McCarthy has a good ear for metaphor and simile as you can see from the following examples…

  • “Norine?” she suggested with a “considering” little frown shirring and ruching her forehead in the style of the Vassar faculty.
  • Her handsome, blowzy face had a plethoric look, as though darkened by clots of thought.
  • She hardly recognized some of the language she was using, and her voice was doing curious slides. In her dry constricted throat, a crowd of disconnected sentences seemed to be milling, like a mob she was trying to moderate.
  • These thoughts, sharp as bird tracks, passed through Mrs. Renfrew’s pretty little hatted head as she sat, tense with sympathy for her daughter, in the Ritz ladies’ lounge.

I recommend re-reading books you enjoyed in your youth. It provides an interesting insight into changing societal tastes — and into the person you used to be.