Continental Drift Metaphors and Similes

Continental Drift Metaphors and Similes

Philosophical Metaphorizing

While it might have all the earmarks of a good old-fashioned thriller, the novel is also quite philosophical at times. In fact, the narration can get very deep and serious in its contemplation of issues best left to the sphere of metaphor to describe:

“It’s as if the creatures residing on this planet in these years, the human creatures, millions of them traveling singly and in families, in clans and tribes, traveling sometimes as entire nations, were a subsystem inside the larger system of currents and tides, of winds and weather, of drifting continents and shifting, uplifting, grinding, cracking land masses.”

The Sea Life

Water, boating, the sea, the coast, the beach and everything related to water is of supreme importance to the narrative. Thus, as you might expect, a great deal of rich metaphorical language is directed toward bringing that aspect to life:

“The reef and the white crashing waves are be- hind them, and before them lies the land, extended like a dark wall beneath velvet sky, with a white seam of beach between the water and the low palmettos.”

"Making a Killing"

This familiar metaphor for one’s ship coming in is of such significance to the story that the phrase serves as one of the chapter subtitles. The failure to deliver on the promise to one’s self has transformed the very fabric of the metaphor’s meaning. Other things have changed the meaning as well.

“Me and Ave Boone, we used to talk about building a boat and going to Australia or someplace in the South Pacific and making a killing… If I said those words now, it’d be like sand in my mouth, because I’d be lying and I’d know it.”

The Consequences of Despondency

One of the most artfully constructed and complex metaphorical passages in the novel is the poetically contemplative examination of the effects of despondency about one’s future as it relates to women:

“If the person is a woman, she may not drink as much…but she, too, will brood fatalistically day and night on the difficulties of her life, its stunted, thwarted shape, and…will often fall helplessly into an explosive kind of depression that can be detonated into crazed violence by an idle, careless spark, by gossip, petty thievery, a misbehaving child, a wayward man.”


Look for it and chances are you will find it. Darkness is the favorite—or at least one of the top three favorite—metaphors for post-19th century fiction writers. Once you see it, you cannot un-see it because it is almost always lurking there somewhere. Such as here in what is a very nicely done turn of phrase:

“Darkness has fallen on them like an attitude.”

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