Through the power of the metaphor, the narrator informs us that, at various points along the way, he is:
“a seed which failed to blossom in the mushroom oasis of America”
“full of raw gems that bleed with icy brilliance”
The phrase “I am” recurs more than one hundred times throughout the text. Usually this phrase leads to a metaphorical assertion of what the narrator is, but on occasion he utilizes the motif to underscore what he is not. For that generation raised on the association of atomizer with vaping, the reference here is to those bottles of perfume with which women pumped a spray from the container through an attached tube that you often see used in old movies.
“I am not an atomizer from which you can squeeze a thin spray of hope.”
Simile: Return to Fourteenth Ward
Miller writes of his childhood neighborhood, “In my dreams I come back to the Fourteenth Ward as a paranoiac returns to his obsessions” (5). This simile is indicative of his complicated feelings about the place. Rather than suggest that he indulges in fond memories, or occasionally thinks about the place, Miller compares himself to a paranoiac, a mentally disturbed person, who cannot leave their obsessions alone. Miller casts himself as unhealthy and incapable of having a normal relationship with the Fourteenth Ward.
Miller flees New York for several years and has choice words to say about his home country. In this example of an effective metaphor, he writes, “I am a man of the old world, a seed that was transplanted by the wind, a seed which failed to blossom in the mushroom oasis of America” (28). Here he is a seed—something small, insignificant, easily borne on the wind—who cannot take root in the soil of America so he must go elsewhere if he wants to bloom.
Simile: The World
Miller spends a lot of the work simply walking the streets, whether it is in New York or Paris. Here he comments about New York: “Everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle—faces, voices, gestures, bodies” (105). This is a lovely simile because it compares the way Miller views all of the disparate elements of the urban tableau to a puzzle, where every piece gently interlocks with others to create a harmonious whole.
Miller comments, “Every living man is a museum that houses the horrors of the race” (188). He creates an image in the mind of a museum with its walls of paintings, but instead, this museum is the living man who has within him the terrible things that the human race has done and will do. Miller sees us as indelibly affected by what our brethren do; we cannot completely escape responsibility because, somewhere deep within, we carry the same propensity toward evil.
Black Spring Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Black Spring is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.