What are the metaphors that Isak Dinesen uses in "The Ring"? 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A metaphor is an unstated comparison, but it can also be a phrase that is applied to an action or an object to which it is not literally applicable. 

With the theme of the role of art in human life, the use of metaphor in Dinesen's "The Ring" lends an aura of fantasy and also of fairy tale to "The Ring." The main character, Lovisa, initially feels that she exists in a romanticized world of cliched metaphors in which she and her new husband now can walk. Here are some of the metaphors in Dinesen's story:

  • "Arm in arm in broad daylight." 
  • "They would walk and drive so till the end of their days."  In her romanticized ideas Lovisa believes all will stay the same.
  • Their "distant paradise" of which they have dreamed is now part of their everyday life.
  • The loving husband, Sigismund, vows to leave "no stone in his bride's path"; nor should "any shadow fall across" their lovely lives.
  • Happily, Lovisa "moved and breathed in perfect freedom" because she feels there will never be any secret that she will hold from her husband.
  • For Lovisa, the new rustic life with her husband "filled her heart with laughter." She can imagine no sorrow in the "enchanting and cherished experience" of her new life.
  • One July morning, "[L]ittle woolly clouds" drift across the sky and "the air is full of sweet scents," meaning everything seems fresh and new.
  • Watching her husband with his sheep, Lovisa thinks, "What a baby he is! I am a hundred years older than he." (Lovisa feels she is more worldly.)
  • As her husband talks with the old sheep master Mathias, some of the conversation "caught her attention."
  • As she listens to Mathias tell Sigismund about the sheep thief, she overhears her husband say, "Poor devil." Lovisa thinks that her grandmother was correct in her assessment of Sigismund as "a danger to society."
  • In the countryside, Lovisa finds the landscape around her "full of promise."
  • She later naively thinks it would be exciting to hide in the grove and seem to "have vanished from the surface of the earth."
  • When she enters the small alcove, Lovisa sees "hangings of thick green and golden brocade," feeling it the "very heart of her new home."
  • As she imagines what Sigismund would feel, Lovisa imagines he would feel a void: "an unendurably sad and horrible place the universe would be in a sylvan closet."
  • During her encounter with the thief, he is characterized as "the wild animal at bay in his dark hiding-place." Lovisa does not bargain for her life; instead she acts with the "grave authoritativeness of a priestess" calling upon some "monstrous being" by "a sacred sign." 
  • In the end, Lovisa realizes that she has wedded herself "to poverty, persecution, total loneliness"... "the sorrows and the sinfulness of this earth."
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