A simile is used to describe Mother.
Figurative language is a comparison. Figurative language is used to describe Mother’s newfound strength. When the minister comes, she holds her ground. She continues her work shelling peas with a “saintly expression” and does not invite him in. Her handling of the pease is described figuratively.
She handled the pease as if they were bullets.
By comparing the peas to bullets, Freeman is making a simile. A simile compares two unlike things by saying they are like each other. The mother handles the peas like bullets because she is tough and strong. She is ready to stand up to the minister and won’t take anything from anyone.