Figurative language devices entail the use of words in a creative way so that the reader can visualize a picture, or a specific and unique effect. As a coming of age story, "Her First Ball" uses figurative language devices to metaphorically convey the message of how Leila sees her life before, during, and after this commemorative event, which is her first society outing as a young lady.
When using figurative language devices in this story, the scenery and setting must be described in a way that mirrors the mentality of an adolescent who is slowly maturing into womanhood. It should also show awe, and overall inexperience in the situation, for which simple and relevant connections are made with similes and metaphors. An example would be the following:
The road was bright on either side with moving fan-like lights, and on the pavement gay couples seemed to float through the air; little satin shoes chased each other like birds.
While none of these fantastic things are really taking place, they certainly seem to be happening in the mind of our main character.
Another instance of figurative language happens the first time that the "fat man" disappears after adding his name to Leila's dancing list. The story tells us that, as he makes his way back to the main ballroom,
He was tossed away on a great wave of music that came flying over the gleaming floor, breaking the groups up into couples, scattering them, sending them spinning...
All that this is really telling us is that the music permeated the room and it felt powerful, for which the dancers were actively engaged in their dance. This is the way in which figurative language works.
However, the moment when Leila has her epiphany and realizes the realities of life (this is after the dance with the fat man), Mansfield really focuses on using figurative language to express Leila's inner thoughts. Yet, figurative language does not always have to be researched, nor does it have to always sound decorative. In this next example we see the use of metaphor again to remind us that "the ball" represents Leila's life; she thinks that, like the ball, life may always be glittery and beautiful. That, maybe she will be forever young, and forever dancing. This is why Mansfield uses the following sentence:
Was this first ball only the beginning of her last ball, after all? At that the music seemed to change; it sounded sad, sad; it rose upon a great sigh
Once again we see the personification of the music (changing, sounding sad, and sighing), and the indication that Leila feared that this first ball may fearfully be "only the beginning of her last".