Fantomina Metaphors and Similes

"the present burning eagerness of desire" (Metaphor) (p. 44)

Here the metaphor of burning is used to reveal the intensity of the desire Beauplaisir feels for the protagonist. While the metaphor signals that he is very passionate, it also subtly foreshadows the ways in which their sexual relationship will be damaging to the protagonist. Burning implies destruction, and the affair she has with Beauplaisir has the potential to destroy her reputation and chances of future happiness with another partner. Also, something that burns can also be extinguished, and the period of burning often tends to be quite short-lived. Thus, this metaphor already hints at how Beauplaisir will eventually tire of his lover even as he seems to be at his most passionate.

"the influence of her ill stars prevented it" (p. 43) (Metaphor)

The metaphor of stars is here used to describe how the protagonist is doomed, even though she believes she is exerting agency and control over her life. The idea that the alignment of the constellations at the time of one's birth predicted one's future (an early version of astrology) was fairly popular and gives rise to the metaphor of "ill stars" describing her bad luck. The metaphor reveals the novel's interest in the extent to which anyone, but especially a woman, can be said to be in control of her life. The protagonist seems able to exert immense control over her life by seamlessly changing identities, but she cannot control either her desire for Beauplaisir or her biology, the combination of which leads to her pregnancy and discovery.

"devoured her lips, her breasts with greedy kisses" (p. 53) (Metaphor)

This metaphor is used to describe the way in which Beauplaisir acts as he seduces the protagonist while she is in disguise as the maidservant Celia. The metaphor of "devouring" suggests the forceful, physical way in which he presents his desire and reveals his lustful nature. The metaphor also shows that he does not take Celia seriously. Because of the differences in their social class, he has far more power than she does and can therefore treat her like an object to be consumed for his own gratification.

"the rack of nature growing more fierce" (p. 69) (Metaphor)

This metaphor compares the labor pains the protagonist is experiencing to the experience of being tortured (the "rack" was device used to torture individuals by gradually dislocating their joints). The metaphor communicates the physical intensity of the pain of childbirth, but it also suggests a punitive element to what she is experiencing. Torture would usually be applied to a criminal, so this metaphor suggests that her pregnancy and labor might be seen as a kind of punishment for her sexual transgressions. Torture could also be used as a way to exact information or confessions, and this is exactly how her mother uses it. By refusing to provide the protagonist with medical assistance until she names the father of her child, labor becomes the one thing strong enough to break the protagonist's resolve and finally lead her to reveal her secret.

"Men would be caught in their own snare" (p. 65) (Metaphor)

This metaphor is used to describe the possibilities of how gendered power dynamics could be reversed if women employed the kinds of cunning and deceit that the protagonist utilizes. Men are figured as hunters who create snares or traps by doing things like lying, flattering, and deceiving women. In this metaphor, women are presented as vulnerable victims, but also as animalistic and therefore less intelligent and rational. However, by suggesting that this pattern could potentially be reversed, the metaphor suggests that women are just as capable of using schemes and lies to their own advantage.