Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Grasping for metaphors & similes while dealing with gun violence

Over the last few months, I've been having various conversations about metaphors with people, so an instance in a recent Times article about gun violence caught my attention. At one point in the article, the reporters mention a man who was killed by stray bullets at a gathering. The man's sister, Jaci Washington, attempts to describe what the murder means for her and her family:
She grasps for metaphors to capture the family’s loss. “It’s like the world crashing in. It’s like a nuclear bomb went off on my couch,” she said. “It’s like someone hit ‘pause’ in my life. I just saw him, and I will never see him again.”
I really felt for her and the family's loss. I also sensed that she was searching for just the right comparison so that the reporter and, by extension, we the readers might adequately understand her and her family's tremendous pain.

While the reporters for the article state that Ms. Washington "grasps for metaphors," the examples cited are similes. Her brother's murder is like the world crashing in; like a nuclear bomb; like someone hitting pause on her life.

I've spent considerable time on this site focusing on what poets do with words and language. However, maybe literary scholars and poets should also do more to consider what survivors of gun violence and the families of victims are doing. Their struggles to get us to understand what their pain and devastation is like deserve our attention.    

A notebook on gun violence 
Similes and metaphors in the Darren Wilson testimony

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