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The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt is told from the perspective of a seventh-grade boy named Holling Hoodhood. Holling is rather dramatic, as noted in the opening line of the novel:
Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with a heat whiter than the sun. Me.
His vivid language reflects his feelings throughout the novel, and he often expresses them through figurative language (note the imagery of the white-hot sun in the line above).
Imagery usually appeals to one or more of the senses, and Holling gives us plenty of imagery throughout the novel. Other examples of imagery include the following:
- "The chalk dust that didn’t get into my lungs flew and twisted with the breeze that curled against the first-floor classrooms, coating all the windows…." Note the use of sight, touch, smell, sound, and even taste in this example.
- Sycorax and Caliban "had hair the color of cardboard in splotches over parts of their bodies, but mostly they were just yellow and scabby skinned." If you find this description at all disgusting or creepy, Holling has done what he intended. He appeals primarily to sight and touch for this one.
- "So we sat in the half-dark, in our coats, in the cold." Imagine kids huddled in a classroom in the winter without any electricity, and this is how it might look and feel.
Metaphors are comparisons between two things which serve to help the reader understand or feel something more clearly. Just before the holidays at Camillo Junior High, teachers decorate their classroom doors with all manner of things, and Holling describes them this way:
The windows on the classroom doors became crepe paper-stained glass.
Holling uses a more compelling metaphor when he describes how he felt when his baseball hero Mickey Mantle proved to be rude and unkind. Holling says, "When gods die, they die hard." To him, Mickey Mantle had been a kind of god, and it was a hard thing for Holling to accept that his god was nothing more than a flawed human being.
Holling also uses similes to draw his readers a picture of how he feels or what he sees. When his entire class, even those he thought were his friends, threatens him relentlessly to bring them cream puffs, Holling compares that to something in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice:
I remembered the death threats hanging over me like Shylock’s knife hanging over Antonio’s chest.
Holling is also moved by beauty, and here he tries to express that:
It was sort of a holy moment, and the light that shone around them seemed to glow softly, like something you’d see in one of the stained glass windows at St. Andrew’s.
Figurative language is an effective way to help the reader feel what the character is feeling and experience what he is experiencing. Though he is only a seventh-grader, Holling is able to express himself through figurative language throughout this novel.
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