Figurative language, such as metaphors which make implied unusual comparisons between unlike things and personification, which gives inanimate objects human-like characteristics, lends imaginative description to a narrative as well as embellishment. In Katherine Mansfield's short story, "Her First Ball" the use of figurative language helps to suggest the magical feel that the night contains for Leila, who has come to the city for her first formal dance. With her nearest neighbor being fifteen miles away, the prospect of being among so many of her age is, indeed, exciting to Leila. Below are some examples of metaphor and personification which serve so well to create the atmosphere of this excitement:
"...smoothing marble-white gloves." [an implied comparison of the gloves to marble]
"The azaleas were...pink and white flags streaming by."
"She was only at the beginning of everything..." [Leila's experience at the dance is compared to the beginning of her adult life and all it will include.]
"The lights, the azaleas, the dresses, the pink faces, the velvet chairs, all became one beautiful flying wheel. [The lights, etc. are compared to a "flying wheel."]
As Leila and her cousins travel the road to the ball, "little satin shoes chased each other like birds." [The shoes are given qualities that only an animate creature can do with the word chased.]
"A great quivering jet of gas lighted the ladies' room. It could'nt wait; it was dancing already. When the door opened again...it leaped almost to the ceiling."
"...little quivering colored flags strung across the ceiling were talking." [animate qualities are in bold]
"It seemed to her that she had never know what the night was like before. Up till now it had been dark, silent, beautiful very often--oh, yes--but mournful somehow. Solemn.....it had opened dazzling bright." [animate qualities]
"At that the music seemed to change; it sounded sad, sad it rose upon a great sigh...."
"But presently a soft, melting, ravishing tune began...