Ransom Metaphors and Similes

Opening Line (metaphor)

The opening line of the novel is a metaphor:

“The sea has many voices.”

And it doesn’t end there. The opening line is just the stage-setter. The first three paragraphs—relatively short, but no one-sentence wonders here—move on from that opening to become a veritable flood of metaphor-laden imagery. The effect of pouring this much poetry into the opening page of a novel can mean only two things: the rest of the book will be almost completely metaphor-free or that opening foreshadows much more to come.

Achilles (simile)

A very beautiful and elegant simile is used by the author to paint Achilles' early state of mind.

“Like a sleeper who has stumbled into another’s dream, he sees what is about to happen but can neither move nor cry out to prevent it.”

Storytelling (simile)

Because Malouf is retelling a very familiar story, one of the underlying themes of the novel is the art of storytelling. It should therefore not come as too great a surprise to come across metaphorical language commenting upon the very act of telling stories:

“The old fellow, like most storytellers, is a stealer of other men’s tales, of other men’s lives.”

A ghostly life (metaphor)

At one point a character who has endured six decades of drudgery puts the whole of that existence into context with a brilliantly vivid metaphorical image that brings to horrific life the true hopelessness of a life a quiet desperation:

“And that life, too, I have lived, if only in a ghostly way. As a foul-smelling mockery of this one, that at any moment can rise to my nostrils and pluck at my robe and whisper.”

The Strangeness of the Moment (metaphor)

The Greek ships are arriving on shore and Priam is struck by what he terms the strangeness of the moment. It is that familiar feeling that all is not quite right; something is off. Priam struggles to put a finger on it and engages a somewhat familiar term, but phrases it in a way that is also just slightly off:

“The wolf’s hour, deep in the Achaean camp.”

The exact meaning of the hour of the wolf remains open to debate, but it is more interesting for how the author tweaks that more familiar construction of the idiomatic phrase to lend to the strangeness of the moment.