We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Metaphors and Similes

A Flock of Taloned Hawks (simile)

“I was afraid that they might touch me and the mothers would come at me like a flock of taloned hawks; that was always the picture I had in my mind—birds descending, striking, gashing with razor claws.”

This simile from early in the novel, when Merricat is at the Elberts’ grocery store, likens the mothers of the children who gawk at Merricat to hawks attacking with talons, showing how afraid Merricat is of them, and how she perceives them as sinister and dangerous. The simile is a surprising one—a reader may expect Merricat to compare the mothers to a mother bear or another animal known for protecting their young, since the mothers are trying to protect their children from Merricat, but instead, she chooses the hawk, showing how hostile she perceives the mothers to be. While a mother bear’s anger might be understandable, a hawk’s ferocity is more irrational, just as Merricat perceives the villagers’ hatred of her as cruel and irrational.

The Castle (metaphor)

“Our house was a castle, turreted and open to the sky.”

This metaphor occurs at the end of the novel, after the top of the Blackwood house has been destroyed. Putting us in mind of the title of the novel, Merricat transforms the ruins of her house into a paradise by imagining it as an elegant castle. The metaphor demonstrates both Merricat's childish mindset—like a young girl, she loves the idea of living in a castle—and her happiness with her house in its new state, despite the destruction it has endured.

The Garden (simile)

“Constance knelt in the dirt, both hands buried as though she were growing.”

This simile appears in the third chapter of the novel as Merricat watches Constance garden. Merricat compares Constance to a plant in the garden itself, saying that she looks like she’s the one growing in the garden. The simile highlights that Constance is almost one with her garden, appearing like a plant herself as she grows the plants that she'll use for her cooking.

Charles the Ghost (metaphor)

"Cousin Charles was a ghost, but a ghost that could be driven away."

In this metaphor, Merricat describes her cousin Charles as a ghost upon his arrival. Indeed, multiple characters note that Charles resembles the sisters' father, and he is reminiscent of a ghost in that he brings back the male authority and patriarchal power that Merricat may have thought died with her father. He is thus a constant reminder of the family Merricat tried so hard to rid herself of, haunting Merricat's beloved house. Yet, like a ghost, he can be driven away through Merricat's form of magic, or witchcraft.

Children and Old Ladies (simile)

"Like children hunting for shells, or two old ladies going through dead leaves looking for pennies, we shuffled along the kitchen floor with our feet, turning over broken trash to find things which were still whole, and useful."

In this simile, which occurs as Merricat and Constance explore the ruins of their kitchen, Merricat likens herself and her sister to both young children and old ladies. Both Merricat and Constance defy typical roles for their ages throughout the novel—the childish Merricat often seems far younger than 18, while the withdrawn, mature Constance seems older than her twenty-something years. Though Merricat is often likened to a child, here she is compared to an old woman too. The elderly often live isolated lives, as the two sisters do, and the stereotypical witch is an old woman. Similarly, the Blackwood sisters soon acquire a witch-like reputation of eating children.