In Sounder, what does the metaphor "when it rose out of the far lowland cottonwoods and pines like a great ball of fire" mean?

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Strictly speaking, "like a great ball of fire" is a simile, a figure of speech that directly compares two things, highlighting the similarities between them, using the words "like" or "as".

In this particular extract from Sounder , the unnamed narrator is describing how his father often speaks aloud...

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Strictly speaking, "like a great ball of fire" is a simile, a figure of speech that directly compares two things, highlighting the similarities between them, using the words "like" or "as".

In this particular extract from Sounder, the unnamed narrator is describing how his father often speaks aloud to the the wind, the sky, and sometimes the sun, when he stands on his porch in the morning. He's especially partial to addressing the sun when it rises out of the far lowland cottons and pines "like a great ball of fire."

As we've already seen, a simile such as this highlights the similarities between two different things. And in this case the similarity is much more obvious because the sun in indeed a great ball of fire; that's exactly what it is.

The emphasis on the sun's size in the simile—"great"—indicates just how much the elements determine the daily pattern of life for the narrator's father and all the other people who live in this neck of the woods. As a poor sharecropper, the narrator's father relies to a considerable extent on good weather in order to make money out of his cotton crop. So the sun, when it appears, isn't just the sun, it's a "great ball of fire," something powerful and awesome.

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