The Wretched of the Earth

The Wretched of the Earth Metaphors and Similes

Language of Violence (Metaphor)

In Chapter 1, Fanon talks vividly about how the colonial government subjugates the colonized. In this passage, he describes the police and soldiers who keep the colonized in check:

"We have seen how the government’s agent uses a language of pure violence. The agent does not alleviate oppression or mask domination. He displays and demonstrates them with the clear conscience of the law enforcer, and brings violence into the homes and minds of the colonized subject." (4)

This is a metaphor because violence is not actually a “language” in the same way that, say, English and French are. But the government communicates through violence in the same way it communicates through language. Through violence, it tells the colonized to stay submissive.

Revolution like a Wildfire (Simile)

In Chapter 2, Fanon discusses how violence erupts spontaneously in rural areas, where men learn to fight back against colonialism and rediscover their own agency. He then uses this simile:

"But the flames have been lit and like an epidemic, spread like wildfire throughout the country." (79)

In fact, there are two similes here. First, violence spreads like an “epidemic”; then it spreads like a “wildfire.” In both cases, violence cannot be contained. Once it shows up in one village, it will spread to another because it is contagious and a force of nature. In this way, the colonist cannot stop the anticolonial insurrection.

The Adopted Intellectual (Simile)

In Chapter 4, Fanon is discussing the role and experience of the colonized intellectual—those Africans who, usually in metropolitan areas, come into contact with European elites and are educated alongside them. He uses this simile to describe the early experience of the intellectual:

"Like adopted children who only stop investigating their new family environment once their psyche has formed a minimum core of reassurance, the colonized intellectual will endeavor to make European culture his own." (156)

Equating culture with family, Fanon vividly brings home how the intellectual may at first be complicit in colonialism. He has been “adopted” by European culture, and this provides him a sense of belonging in an otherwise alienating world. But eventually, the intellectual must leave behind this comfort in order to confront the brutal reality of colonialism.