The figurative language of Sarah Ruhl…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about metaphors from Sarah Ruhl….

Sarah Ruhl is an award-winning American playwright, author, essayist, and professor. I can’t remember what led me to pick up her memoir, Smile: The Story of a Face, but it represented a remarkable coincidence.

Within a week of my starting to read the book — which tells the story of her battle with Bell’s Palsy — my own daughter was diagnosed with exactly the same condition. Perhaps my personal interest in the (very useful) medical explanations in the book helped me to like it more. But I don’t think so.

Ruhl is a thoughtful and highly skilled writer and has great ease with figurative language as well. Here are my favourite examples:

  • Oh, what naps I had in those days. The best pregnant nap (which can also be applied to nonpregnant naps) is metaphorically toasting yourself on both sides: I napped on one side for an hour, then flipped, toasting myself on the other side until I was fully slept.
  • I spoke to a theater colleague recently who had been through hell when her baby granddaughter died. She said she was disappointed with some acquaintances who kept saying, “I cannot imagine what you are going through.” My colleague said she thought, “Well, you could try.”
  • My mom said matter-of-factly that she didn’t feel brave, or deserving of pity, she was inside her life — doing what she wanted to be doing— taking care of my father. And it was a nice day, so she was simply taking my father for a walk. My neighbor’s polite expression of empath was, in a way, a negation of the experience of being inside illness. A boundary that many people do not wish to cross.
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