Collectively, what do these quotes mean in To Kill a Mockingbird? (Note emphasis in all-caps.)
"Molasses buckets appeared from nowhere, and the CEILING DANCED WITH METALLIC LIGHT"
"Miss Caroline was no more than twenty-one. She had bright auburn hair, pink cheeks, and wore crimson fingernail polish. She also wore high-heeled pumps and a red-and-white striped dress. SHE LOOKED and smelled LIKE A PEPPERMINT DROP"
"WALTER LOOKED AS IF HE HAD BEEN RAISED ON FISH FOOD his eyes, as blue as Dill Harris’s, were red-rimmed and watery. There was no color in his face except at the tip of his nose, which was moistly pink...."
"You can’t do that, Scout ... Sometimes it’s better TO BEND THE LAW A LITTLE in special cases. In your case, THE LAW REMAINS RIGID. So to school you must go."
If you look at the all-caps portion of each quote, you will notice that a figure of speech is being emphasized in each. Basically speaking, a figure of speech is a descriptive phrase that is not meant to be read and taken literally, but instead, it compares two unlike things to make a point. Figures of speech can be similes, which use the word "like" or "as" or they can be metaphors, which do not use these words. The above quotes have a mixture of similes and metaphors. I will provide a basic explanation of the first two and encourage you to figure out the others:
- metaphor: ceilings do not "dance" but as a result of the buckets underneath, the light reflected on the ceiling as if it was dancing.
- simile: Miss Caroline is not a piece of candy, however, according to Scout, she "looked and smelled like a peppermint drop." This description is a humorous way of saying she is dressed in a coordinating outfit (possibly of red and white) and smells far too clean and sweet to fit in with the classroom full of country bumpkins.
Using the examples above, see if you can identify the figure of speech in your final two quotes, and what they mean.
Figurative language is a means of expression that differs from the ordinary. In narratives, such language embellishes and often enlivens ideas, providing the reader with deeper meaning and enjoyment. Here are literary identifications of the examples given above from To Kill a Mockingbird:
"The ceiling danced with metallic light" is an example of personification, since the inanimate ceiling is given the human quality of being able to dance.
"She looked and smelled like a peppermint drop." This sentence contains a simile, as stated previously, since Miss Caroline and a peppermint drop are certainly different, and Scout makes this unusual comparison using the word "like."
"Walter looked as if he had been raised on fish food." This sentence contains a figure of speech: "raised on fish food." Scout does not really believe that Walter has a diet of fish food; instead, she uses a figure of speech, or "a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words," to express his undernourished body, pale face, and watery eyes (literarydevices.net).
"Sometimes it's better to bend the law in special cases. In your case, the law remains rigid. So to school you must go." "To bend the law" is an idiom; that is, this is an expression which uses a figure of speech that has come to take on a certain meaning that is commonly recognized. Idiom is defined as "a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words" (Cambridge Dictionary). "The law remains rigid" is also an idiom that incorporates a figure of speech.