Dombey and Son

Dombey and Son Metaphors and Similes

"eyes as red as if they had been small suns looking at you through a fog" (pg 35) (Simile)

This simile is used to describe the eyes of Sol Gills in the initial description of him. While red eyes are typically not attractive, the simile helps to create a more positive tone around this characteristic. The sun shining through a fog has positive connotations of providing safety, encouragement, and perhaps preventing one from becoming lost. This simile reflects the integrity and strong moral nature of Sol: he is a beacon of honor in an otherwise morally foggy world. His guidance and education will help Walter to make good decision, just as one might use the light of a sun to navigate through mist and fog.

"yet his interest in youth and hopefulness was not extinguished with the other embers of his soul" (pg 76) (Metaphor)

This metaphor is used to describe John Carker, and his state of mind when he encounters Walter helping Florence after Mrs. Brown has kidnapped her. An ember is a glowing coal left behind after a fire has gone out, and the image would be familiar to a Victorian audience who often relied on open fires for heat. John Carker has had much of his confidence and sense of self worth lost since he was caught stealing, and the idea of a fire that has gone out vividly conveys his current passive and often despondent state. His attachment to Walter, however, and a more general interest in young people, can still spark some interest in him, as the metaphor of a faintly glowing ember conveys. Throughout the novel, the idea of the next generation serving to redeem and inspire hope is often present, and this metaphor provides an example of that theme.

"with his face like a dirty window, from much crying" (pg 148) (Simile)

This simile is used to describe the appearance of one of the other boys at the Blimber school. Just as a window that has been unwashed would be marked by streaks, so the face of the boy has tracks of tears on it. The simile is powerful because it evokes the image of a suffering, neglected child. A dirty window remains in that state because no one makes the effort to wash it, and by using this simile, Dickens implies that the young boy is similarly being uncared for, and cries frequently as a result. In a novel where child characters often encounter suffering and neglect, but sometimes hide their pain and try to remain hopeful, this simile conveys how much pain emotional and physical neglect creates.

"[she] hoped that patient observation of him and trust in him would lead her bleeding feet along the stony road which ended in her father's heart" (pg 382) (Metaphor)

This metaphor is used to describe Florence's struggle to win affection from her mother. The metaphor highlights how difficult and painful this process is for her by comparing it to a trek that leaves her physically wounded. Throughout the novel, Florence suffers a pain as intense as if her father beat her, although he only strikes her once, after Edith leaves the house. Not only does the metaphor communicate the pain Florence is feeling, it also shows her resolve and commitment to enduring it. Just as someone determined to reach their end goal would keep walking even if their feet were in pain, Florence persists in trying to win her father's love, no matter how much she suffers along the way.

"Edith sat like a handsome statue; as cold, as silent, and as still" (pg 409) (Simile)

This simile is used to describe Edith's reaction to the news that her wedding can take place at the time of her choosing. While the simile conveys her lack of enthusiasm for the upcoming marriage, it also reveals the way Edith is treated and expected to behave. Dombey admires her beauty and wants to show her off, just as someone would want to display a beautiful piece of art. As Kelly Hager explains, "For husbands like Dombey... it is not enough that their wives literally belong to them: they must also put their mastery and ownership of their wives on display"(92). At the same time, Dombey expects her to behave like a statue, with the traits this simile reveals: quietness, docility, and passivity. The problems arise in their marriage when Dombey comes to realize that this is not actually how Edith will behave.