The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook Metaphors and Similes

"You do nothing else but feel sorry for yourself because Marion is your Achilles heel" (pg. 27) (Metaphor)

Molly uses this metaphor while criticizing Richard. An "Achilles heel" is a weakness or vulnerable point; the metaphor alludes to a character from Homer's Iliad that could only be injured in a specific body part. The metaphor shows that Molly is an educated and articulate character that can make thoughtful observations, whereas the reason that Marion is a source of vulnerability for Richard is that she is neither as intelligent nor self-sufficient. The use of this metaphor thus heightens the contrast between Richard's first and second wives.

"she maintained her sweet smile that was like a yawn" (pg. 104) (Simile)

In this description of Maryrose, the smile she wears while being wooed by young men is compared to a yawn. Anna, as a fellow woman, can tell that Maryrose is bored by the experience of having to sit and politely listen to men who don't interest her. However, social conventions require Maryrose to seem polite and receptive. The simile comparing a smile to a yawn hints at the way in which women are not free to express their true feelings, particularly about men. This tension is something Anna and various other female characters will wrestle with throughout the novel.

"I moved wooden bricks for a house, but like a machine" (pg. 233) (Simile)

Anna uses this simile to describe herself attempting to play with her young daughter. She had hoped that motherhood would fulfill her, and she dutifully goes through the actions that, from the outside, would suggest a loving, maternal relationship. However, Anna knows that she does these things in an automatic and unfeeling way. By comparing her actions while playing to those of a machine, Anna suggests that motherhood is another thing she experiences without feeling truly present: she still watches herself from the outside and feels disconnected from the present moment.

"Happiness floods right through me like being flooded over with warm water" (pg. 299) (Simile)

Anna uses this simile to describe the happiness she experiences during a pleasant moment with Michael. The comparison to warm water evokes the pleasure that the happiness gives her; by comparing the happiness to a physical sensation, Anna hints at the way her relationship to Michael is rooted in the physical pleasure she often experiences with him. The simile also evokes the passive way in which Anna experiences happiness: she neither anticipated nor actively created the feelings of happiness her lover gives her, but she allows herself to surrender to them. This moment is one of very few where readers see Anna being open and vulnerable. However, as Cornelius Collins notes, "Three weeks after this rare episode of feeling secure and integrated in her identity... Anna records in the blue notebook both Michael’s leaving her and her leaving of the CPGB, thus instilling the novel’s characteristic irony upon the fleeting moment of seemingly uncomplicated joy" (pg. 58).

"What I could see of his face paper white. Like fine slightly crinkled paper" (pg. 555) (Simile)

Anna uses this simile to describe Saul Green when she goes in to wake him up while he is staying with her. By comparing his face to paper, Anna alludes to the way she and Saul's identities as writers have shaped their relationship. The simile also foreshadows the impact Saul will ultimately have on Anna's life. Although their romantic relationship will be fleeting, he will help her to break through her writer's block and set her on the path to producing the novel which readers will encounter as The Golden Notebook.