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Written by Timothy Sexton
The novel’s opening effectively uses metaphor to immediately situate the mood of alienation conveyed by the brownstones to its young protagonist. The forthright menace implied by final image is subtly hinted by the reference to the sleepy quality of the surrounding environment:
“In the somnolent July afternoon the unbroken line of brownstone houses down the long Brooklyn street resembled an army massed at attention.”
The Invisible Listener
Selina is referenced along with the idea of invisibility several times throughout the novel, but the two most immediate and tangible references create a metaphor for her from the perspective of her mother. On two different occasions, Silla is said to be searching for her “invisible listener” with Selina nearby but out of sight.
The narrator quite early on gives a vivid description of Selina as being wise beyond her years and ordained with a kind of ageless sensitivity. This facet of her personality is manifested physically through her eyes which were:
“set deep in the darkness of her face. They were not the eyes of a child. Something too old lurked in their centers.”
The Wedding Dance
A dance on the floor at a wedding becomes a moment of ecstasy capable of transporting Selina away from the alienation and menace of the brownstones and to a sphere of being never experienced before. The imagery is thick and the metaphor inspired:
“Selina swayed through the thronged dancers, part of a giant amoeba which changed shape yet always remained of one piece. When she and Beryl dance in the center she felt like the source from which all the movement flowed. When pushed to the periphery, like someone clinging to a spinning wheel.”
An image revealing the extent to which Selina has matured over the course of the story is juxtaposed against an image hinting that Silla has not. The metaphorical language is revealing of both characters:
“Silla’s rage lit the air like a dazzling pyrotechnic display…Selina felt the old admiration, but none of the old weakening—she was no longer the child who used to succumb, without will, to that powerful onslaught.”
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