Eilis well knows how few opportunities there are in Enniscorthy, and so she immediately recognizes that for Nancy, dating George is an opportunity not only for love, but also for financial stability and even advancement. On page 18, she reflects that “For Nancy, who worked in Buttle’s Barley-Fed Bacon behind the counter, going out with George Sheridan was a dream that she did not wish to wake from." By using this metaphor, Eilis not only elucidates the deeper importance of this seemingly trivial date, but also shows how few and far between opportunities really are in their hometown.
Eilis as a ghost (Metaphor)
On page 69, Eilis begins to feel intense homesickness. Not only is she intensely lonely, but she feels disconnected from this new place, and unable to find her place in it. The text states: “She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything.” She is described as a ghost, barely there and certainly not living. This metaphor evokes Eilis's new and strange feelings of displacement.
Eilis as Tony's shadow (Metaphor)
On page 150, as Eilis watches Tony waiting for her outside of Brooklyn College, she contemplates their relationship. She thinks about the things she loves about him, and the delight he takes in life. She reflects, though, that “that delight seemed to come with a shadow, and she wondered as she watched him if she herself, in all her uncertainty and distance from him, was the shadow and nothing else.” She thinks that perhaps she is the very shadow she can see in him, that she is the one bringing this sadness and doubt into his life. This powerful metaphor serves to illustrate her doubts about their relationship, even in this moment where she decides to tell him that she loves him.
Rose as stone (Simile)
On page 188, Eilis's brother Jack describes Rose's funeral in a letter to his sister. He writes, "'Rose was like stone when I saw her, all pale like something from a picture.'" Jack's repeated use of the word "like" indicates that these are similes. He employs these similes in order to make the point that the sight of Rose's lifeless body was so foreign and wrong that he simply could not believe his sister was dead. As he explains himself, "I don't know what was wrong with me but I didn't think it was her at all until we had to carry the coffin..." These similes emphasize the depth and pain of his grief.
Eilis's life in Brooklyn as a dream (Simile & Metaphor)
On page 246, Eilis realizes that she is not in love with Tony, and that perhaps she never was. She thinks: "He seemed part of a dream from which she had woken with considerable force some time before, and in this waking time his presence, once so solid, lacked any substance or form; it was merely a shadow at the edge of every moment of the day and night." In the first part of this quote, Tony and Eilis's feelings for him are compared to a dream from which Eilis had already woken up. In this comparison, the verb "seem" makes it a simile. Late in the passage, she thinks that now his presence "was merely a shadow at the edge of every moment of the day and night." Here, she says that Tony's presence IS a shadow, which is a metaphor. In a book so devoid of flowery language, the use of a metaphor and a simile highlight Eilis's emotion in this moment, and the importance of this revelation.
Brooklyn Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Brooklyn is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.