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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

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Figurative Language in The Witch of Blackbird Pond


The Witch of Blackbird Pond uses various forms of figurative language, including similes, metaphors, and personification. These literary devices enhance the narrative by creating vivid imagery and deeper emotional connections. For example, the protagonist Kit is often described through metaphors that highlight her uniqueness and struggles, helping readers to better understand her character and the themes of the novel.

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What metaphors and similes are found in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Clearly, any good work of fiction is going to use many metaphors and similes as examples of figurative language and aids to their descriptions. Metaphors and similes help create pictures in the reader's mind of what the author is trying to describe by comparing something with an object or a thing that we would not normally think of. By forcing us to see the points of comparison, the metaphors and similes give us a very strong mental image of what is being described.

In Chapter 1, therefore, an excellent simile is used to describe Kit's thoughts at standing on the soil of the land she is voyaging to for the first time:

Her spirits bobbed like the whitecaps in the harbour as the boat pulled away from the black hull of the Dolphin.

Note how this conveys Kit's excitement to be finally close to her end destination and also her sense of expectation.

A metaphor is used later on in the same chapter to describe Kit's anger at the way she is being ignored when Prudence drops her doll into the sea:

When a thin whimper from the child was silenced by a vicious cuff, her anger boiled over.

Of course, anger literally can't "boil over" - her anger is being compared to a pot on a stove that is boiling over to express her sense of outrage.

These are just two examples from the first chapter. Go and have a look for more examples of similes and metaphors in the other chapters. Good luck!

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What metaphors and similes are found in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

A simile is a figure of speech.  Specifically it makes a comparison between two different items in order to highlight some similarity between the two items.  The last piece of a simile is that the comparison must use the words "like" or "as" to make the comparison.  For example:

My sixth grade class is full of energy.  They are like the atoms in a gas -- always bouncing off the walls.  

In The Witch of Blackbird Pond there is a great simile in chapter one that is used to describe Kit as she sets foot in America for the first time.  

Her spirits bobbed like the whitecaps in the harbor as the boat pulled away from the black hull of the Dolphin.

A page later, Kit gets back into the longboat with a few other passengers.  One is a little girl with a toy.  After a few minutes of rowing, the little girl realizes that she dropped her toy in the water.  The simile used to describe the floating toy is as follows.  

The toy was drifting farther and farther from the boat, like a useless twig in the current. 

One last simile.  This one is from chapter two.  

It was almost too much to bear when she heard a splash directly below her and saw that Nat and two of the other young men had taken advantage of a wait for the rowboat and were thrashing about like porpoises in the river.

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Please can you give an example of a metaphor in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

If you are looking for metaphors and other examples of figurative language, a great place to start is the description provided of the changing seasons in America. The author uses a number of different types of figurative language to convey the beauty and the differences. Consider the description of fall at the beginning of Chapter 14:

After the keen still days of September, the October sun filled the world with mellow warmth. Before Kit's eyes a miracle took place, for which she was totally unprepared. She stood in the doorway of her uncle's house and held her breath with wonder. The maple tree in front of the doorstep burned like a gigantic red torch. The oaks along the roadway glowed yellow and bronze. The fields stretched like a carpet of jewels, emerald and topaz and garnet. Everywhere she walked the colour shouted and sang around her. The dried brown leaves crackled beneath her feet and gave off a delicious smoky fragrance.

Now, hopefully you will have noticed that in this quote there are a number of different examples of figurative language. Note how the description brings fall to life in all its beauty by appealing to as many of the senses as possible. We have the onomatopoeia of the leaves "crackling," enacting the sound, and we have the simile of "the fields stretched like a carpet of jewels," helping us to imagine the visual beauty of the fields in all of their bright colours. Remember, though, that a metaphor differs from a simile in that it asserts a comparison between two objects without using the word "like" or "as." Thus, the oaks that "glowed yellow and bronze" is an example of an implied metaphor, because the oaks are being compared to gold and bronze, precious metals, because of their beautiful colour.

Hopefully this will help you identify other metaphors in this great book. You might want to think about the description of winter that is provided later on in the novel and see if you can find any examples of metaphors there. Good luck!

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What are examples of hyperbole in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Hyperbole is a form of figurative language used to express exaggeration. Dr. Wheeler gives us the example, "His thundering shout could split rocks" ("Tropes," Carson-Newman University). In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare frequently uses hyperbole to describe Kit's greatest antagonist, Goodwife Cruff.

A couple of examples can be found during Kit's trial for the accusation of being a witch in Chapter 19. When Prudence Cruff is called to the witness stand to testify, Prudence acknowledges that Kit secretly taught her how to read from the Bible at Hannah Tupper's house. Speare uses hyperbole to describe Goodwife Cruff's reaction to the secrets Prudence reveals during her testimony. For example, Speare describes Goodwife Cruff getting prepared to say something hateful about Kit and how she had bewitched her daughter in the following:

Goodwife Cruff drew in her breath through her teeth in a venomous hiss.

This sentence draws a comparison between Goodwife Cruff and a snake in order to make her hateful reaction sound as evil as a snake hissing. However, since Goodwife Cruff didn't literally hiss like a snake, we know this sentences serves as a hyperbole to give an exaggerated description of Goodwife Cruff's hateful reaction.

The next moment, after Prudence's father expresses pride in her newly demonstrated reading abilities, Speare uses hyperbole to describe Goodwife Cruff's shocked reaction to her husband's pride:

Goodwife Cruff's jaw dropped.

The sentence describes Goodwife Cruff's mouth hanging wide open in shocked disbelief. But, jaws do not literally drop the way we might drop an object to the floor; instead, they open wide or hang open. Since Goodwife Cruff's  jaw does not literally drop, we know this is another example of hyperbole.

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