Throughout this first semester of American Literature, a pair of bizarre metaphors have stuck with me for their singular strangeness. Good figures of speech work because they connect a new experience with a familiar one. “Walking through the fetid jungle was like trying to swim through a soaking wet wool blanket,” for example. Never been to the jungle? That’s OK, because we can all imagine being swamped by a wet blanket. It’s like that.
In a famous scene in Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab admits that the white whale had bitten off his leg; Ahab savagely wails and screams the fact, “with a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose.”
So, how exactly did Ahab sound when he crazily lamented the loss of his leg to the whale? Well, he sounded like a moose when his girlfriend trots away, or something. You know. That sound.
Oh. Because we’ve all spent time in Alaska with lovelorn wildlife.
Melville’s contemporary Edgar Allan Poe was even more esoteric. Continue reading