In his short story “The Three Strangers” Thomas Hardy uses a number of similes to make comparisons that create emphasis and imagery.
When describing the rainstorm, the author states, “The level rainstorm smote walls, slopes, and hedges like clothyard shafts of Senlac and Crency.” Clothyard shaft is another term for an arrow therefore he is saying that the rain came down as straight and ferociously as the arrows in the battles that took place at Senlac in England and Crency in France.
Another use of a simile to describe the storm says, “Such sheep and outdoor animals as had no shelter stood with their buttocks to the winds; while the tails of little birds trying to roost on some scraggy thorn were blown inside-out like umbrellas.” Hardy creates visual imagery with the simile that compares the feathers on the birds to umbrellas battered by the wind. This gives the reader a visual image of how the wind is affecting the animals.
Next, Thomas Hardy incorporates a common simile when describing the crackling noises of the fire again creating imagery, this time auditory. He writes, “On the hearth, in front of a back-brand to give substance, blazed a fire of thorns, that crackled ‘like the laughter of the fool’." In this case, he is comparing the crackling of the thorny wood in the fire to the noisy laughter of a foolish person.
When two of the strangers are sharing the mug of mead, the author once again employs the use of simile. He describes the edge of the mug as “a huge vessel of brown ware, having its upper edge worn away like a threshold.” In other words, he is saying after years of wear and tear both the lip of the mug and threshold to the house are smooth and a bit thin.
Another important simile is used when the party guests are attempting to determine who the second unknown visitor is. “All were as perplexed at the obscure revelation as the guests at Belshazzar's Feast, except the man in the chimney-corner, who quietly said, "Second verse, stranger," and smoked on.” This simile references the Biblical story of Belshazzar’s feast where all the guests but one were confused by the writing on the wall that portended disaster for Belshazzar.
Throughout the story, Thomas Hardy uses simile as a literary tool to create imagery and to create deeper meaning.