Is any figurative language used in Roxana? Where?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Well, considering this story is written by Daniel Defoe, one can bet there will be figurative language involved.  Keep in mind that the full title is as follows: 

Roxana or The Fortunate Mistress. Now, let us take a look at what figurative language is before we explore a specific quotation where two figures of speech can be found in Defoe’s work.

Figurative language is simply the use of words to express something different than the literal definition of the original thing. Because this definition is difficult to understand, figurative language is best explained through examples. For example, instead of saying that you are depressed, you could say that your heart is heavy. Your heart (the organ that pumps blood through your body), of course, is not actually heavy. It is just an expression through figurative language to convey that emotion.

Probably the best example of figurative language is the metaphor, which is an unusual comparison (not using the words “like” or “as”) that uses words to give a quality to something that it doesn’t have in reality. Defoe is a master of this type of figurative language. Look at the following passage, and we can find two examples right here:

So possible is it for us to roll ourselves up in wickedness, till we grow invulnerable by conscience; and that sentinel, once dozed, sleeps fast, not to be awakened while the tide of pleasure continues to flow or till something dark and dreadful brings us to ourselves again.

The first metaphor here is “to roll ourselves up in wickedness.” We are unable to literally “roll ourselves” in anything except a blanket or a rug or mud, etc. We cannot “roll ourselves” in any quality, but we can participate in it fully, and this is exactly what this piece of figurative language means.

Secondly, we have the idea of the sentinel, or the guard. Although a sentinel is a literal thing, saying that the “conscience” is in fact “that sentinel” is figurative in nature. Further, this is a special type of figurative language that is personification (giving human qualities to something that isn’t human). Conscience cannot literally sleep or doze or awaken. Conscience is not human, but we can understand the term better if we hear about conscience as our guard.

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