From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Metaphors and Similes

A Careful Grasp (Simile)

Claudia is emptying the wastebasket in her parents' room when she makes an unexpected and exciting discovery: "Using the tips of her forefinger and thumb like a pair of forceps, she pulled at it and discovered a ten-ride pass for the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad" (pg. 13).

This means that Claudia will be able to run away sooner than expected, because she does not need to save the money for a train ticket. This discovery is so exciting that she is willing to suppress her normal fussiness and reach into a trash barrel to pull out the piece of paper - though she does handle the object with a degree of care that recalls the use of forceps.

The Significance of Flattery (Metaphor)

In order to persuade Jamie to join her (and bring his substantial funds) on her adventure, Claudia says that she has chosen him over all her other brothers. Jamie is flattered by her remark, and decides to join him. Mrs. Frankweiler comments parenthetically, "(Flattery is as important a machine as the lever, isn’t it, Saxonberg? Give it a proper place to rest, and it can move the world.)" (Pg. 15.)

This is an example of the little life observations that Mrs. Frankweiler weaves into her letters to Saxonberg. In the same way that a lever can move a very heavy load, Claudia's expertly timed flattery motivates Jamie into following her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Empty Stomachs (Simile)

Their first morning in the museum, Claudia and Jamie have a very meager dinner and wake up terribly hungry. "Their stomachs felt like tubes of toothpaste that had been all squeezed out. Giant economy-sized tubes" (pg. 43).

This simile evokes the image of a flattened, squeezed-out toothpaste tube to convey the hunger of Jamie and Claudia.

Homesickness (Simile)

On their fourth night in the museum, the children ponder the fact that they really do not feel very homesick. They recall another time they were separated from their parents, when their brother Kevin was born and the rest of the Kincaid children went to stay with an aunt. Jamie sucked his thumb a great deal, which Claudia teases him for. "Jamie giggled, 'Yeah, I guess homesickness is like sucking your thumb. It’s what happens when you’re not very sure of yourself'" (pg. 86).

Sucking one's thumb is often a form of comfort for small children; Jamie implies that one does not need comfort if one is sure of oneself. This simile may also imply that homesickness, like thumb-sucking, is just for small children.

Failed Rescue (Metaphor)

After the children receive the disappointing letter informing them that the museum was already aware of the mark on the bottom of the statue, Claudia weeps uncontrollably. She says, “I feel as if I jumped into a lake to rescue a boy, and what I thought was a boy turned out to be a wet, fat log. Some heroine that makes. All wet for nothing” (pg. 118).

Claudia compares her struggles to prove the authenticity of Angel to the effort to rescue a boy. However, all her theories about Angel have turned out to be worthless, just as the boy in the metaphor turned out to be nothing but a log. This metaphor also highlights Claudia's desire to be a heroine: she wants to do the rescuing, in contrast to the girls in fairy tales who are often rescued.