Zora Neal Hurston opens here novel Their Eyes Were Watching God with an incredibly lyrical metaphor:
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
By making the metaphor specific to men, she creates a contrast to the inner life and dreams that women, such as her protagonist Janie Crawford, might have:
Now, women forget all these things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.
The distant ships metaphorically are the vessel that holds and transports our dreams. Men project into the distance or into the future a vehicle for the things they want. For many, those dreams are never realized, always remaining just outside one's reach. They buttress one's hopes...
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