Harriet E. Wilson’s 1859 novel, Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, is full of interesting quotes. The author frequently uses various forms of figurative language within the text to help develop the characters.
Early in the first chapter, Wilson writes of Mag,
As she merged into womanhood, unprotected, uncherished, uncared for, there fell on her ear the music of love, awakening an intensity of emotion long dormant.
Wilson uses asyndeton in “unprotected, uncherished, uncared for” to show each of these facts as equal in the character. This quote helps establish the tragic nature of Mag. The reader knows that Mag is on her own with no one to look out for her. When someone shows a romantic interest in her, she is quick to fall in love. Without a protector or guide, the young woman falls prey to a sweet-talking man.
She knew the voice of her charmer, so ravishing sounded far above her. It seemed like an angel's, alluring her upward and onward.
Here, Wilson uses a simile to show the power of the young man's words, comparing his voice to that of an angel. Wilson continues to draw on the heavenly idea of this relationship by next showing that Mag believed “she could ascend to him and become an equal.” Wilson begins to set up the rise which will inevitably end with a fall. Mag’s fall comes after “she surrendered to him a priceless gem,” namely, her virginity. Wilson creates a metaphor by comparing Mag’s virginity to a “priceless gem.” By creating this metaphor, Wilson objectifies Mag’s virginity, making it something that can be taken. Once the man claimed his “trophy,” he “left her to her fate.” Mag has fallen for a man who only used her. As seen in these few quotes, Wilson presents her readers with carefully crafted language.