Brooklyn Imagery

Dolores's Oufit

“Eilis was shocked by Dolores’s appearance when she went upstairs at ten o’clock and found her. She was wearing a cheap leather jacket, like a man’s, and a frilly white blouse and a white skirt and almost black stockings. The red lipstick seemed garish against her freckled face and bright hair. She struck Eilis as looking like a horse-dealer’s wife in Enniscorthy on a fair day. Eilis almost fled downstairs as soon as she saw her” (128).

Eilis uses vivid language to describe Dolores's appearance. She describes her cheap, mismatched clothes, and clownlike makeup. Eilis cannot help but imagine her as a horse-dealer's wife. Her reaction to this image is almost visceral, making her want to flee the room. In a novel where clothes so often signal identity, this description is a clear sign that the other boarders are right to shun Dolores, and that she is as uncouth and irritating as she seems.

Eilis and Tony's First Time

“When he moved on top of her and entered her she tried not to gasp as she began to panic. It was not only the pain and the shock but the idea that she could not control him, that his penis was pushing into her deeper than she wanted it to go. With each thrust it seemed to move further into her until she was sure it was going to injure something inside her. She felt a relief as it pulled back but only to find it worse each time as it pushed up into her. She tightened as much as she could to stop it and she wished she could call out or indicate that he should not push in so hard, that he was going to break something” (194.

When Eilis and Tony have sex for the first time, Eilis imagines that he is literally too deep inside her, and that he might injure her. She says to him afterward, “I thought you would go up into my neck.” For Eilis, this image is a natural way of describing a pain she had never experienced before, and a concern she had about her body. It is a tense moment for Eilis, who is only just beginning to explore her sexuality.

Rose's Death

“The idea of Rose dying in her sleep seemed unimaginable. Had she opened her eyes for a moment? Had she just lain still breathing the breath of sleep, and then, as though it were nothing, had her heart stopped and her breath? How could this happen? Had she cried out in the night and not been heard, or even murmured or whispered? Had she known something the previous evening? Something, anything, that might have given her a clue that this was her last day alive in the world?

She imagined Rose laid out now in the dark robes of the dead with candles flickering on the table. And later the coffin being closed, and the solemn faces of everyone in the hallway and outside in the street, her brothers wearing suits and black ties as they had at their father’s funeral. All morning at mass and back in Father Flood’s house, she went through each moment of Rose’s death and her removal” (p 185)

Eilis's grief makes her imagine each moment of Rose's death and burial in excruciating detail. Every successive thought inflicts new pain, and yet Eilis cannot stop her mind from going over it again and again. Here, vivid images are used to show the depth of Eilis's pain in losing Rose.

Eilis's Seasickness

“She had no idea how far under the sea she was except that her cabin was deep in the belly of the ship. As her stomach began dry heaves, she realized that she would never be able to tell anyone how sick she felt. She pictured her mother standing at the door waving as the car took her and Rose to the railway station, the expression on her mother’s face strained and worried, managing a final smile when the car turned down Friary Hill. What was happening now, she hoped, was something that her mother had never even imagined. If it had been somehow easier, just rocking back and forth, then she might have been able to convince herself that it was a dream, or it would not last, but every moment of it was absolutely real, totally solid and part of her waking life, as was the foul taste in her mouth and the grinding of the engines and the heat that seemed to be increasing as the night wore on. And with all this came the feeling that she had done something wrong, that it was somehow her fault that Georgina had gone elsewhere and that her neighbours had locked the bathroom door, and her fault that she had vomited all over the cabin and had not succeeded in cleaning up the mess” (46)

Eilis's misery on her trip to Brooklyn is made physical as she describes her horrible seasickness. Between the foul taste in her mouth, her dry heaving stomach, and the heat, she feels trapped in her misery, and unable to alleviate by even expressing her feelings to someone else. Here, the graphic imagery is used to emphasize her suffering.