We Need New Names

We Need New Names Metaphors and Similes

Holding Coins Tight in a Fist (Simile)

"I knew who he was the moment I laid my eyes on him for the first time... like my grandfather's face was a folded fist and all our faces were collected like coins inside it." (25-6)

Darling's family is a fractured and confusing thing - her mother is home infrequently, her father has not come home in years, and her aunt and cousin moved to America long ago to lead lives Darling can only imagine. In this moment, Darling reflects on the genetic, appearance-based similarities that tie her family together in the photographs they keep in the shack. This simile, which uses the image of holding coins tight in a fist, juxtaposes the way her family is scattered across the world.

Hot Loaves of Bread (Simile)

"We pass tiny shack after tiny shack crammed together like hot loaves of bread." (28)

In We Need New Names, Bulawayo spends a good deal of time simply describing and comparing natural surroundings through Darling's vivid and observant gaze. This simile also demonstrates Darling and her friends' focus on food, their hunger causing images of food to seep into the way they see even objects like shacks.

Nooses (Simile)

"Matching bling hangs around their necks like nooses." (47)

Darling thinks of this simile with regard to the two young women, likely prostitutes, who emerge from one of the tents in Shanghai, the construction site populated by loud, rough men. This comparison of bling to nooses demonstrates the way these women are restricted in and by the ways they must make money.

Ants and Dung Flies (Simile/Metaphor)

"At first we try and line up nicely, as if we are ants going to a wedding, but when they open the back of the lorry, we turn into dizzied dung flies." (56)

This sentence employs two vivid images, both comparing the children waiting for presents from the NGO workers to bugs. The first section is a simile, using "as if" and then crafting the fantastical image of "ants going to a wedding," while the second half is a metaphor and stays closer to reality, incorporating alliteration for "dizzied dung flies." Neither half shows the children in a particularly good light, but the second half is especially self-deprecating of Darling, who acts as both a participant and observer in the group of children.

Ants, Flies, Wretched Sea (Simile)

"They appeared single file, like ants. In swarms, like flies. In angry waves, like a wretched sea." (75)

Again, Darling makes two comparisons of people from Paradise to pests, specifically ants and flies. However, the third simile in this set shakes up the pattern of bug similes, expanding the image of mass emigration to an entire sea and personifying even the inanimate sea twice, as "angry" and "wretched" to give additional vividness to this image.