Figurative Speech in Mother of Trenches





Figurative Speech in Mother of Trenches

Figurative speech comprises one of the main techniques used by authors in their literary compositions. The technique implies use of language in a manner that is non-literal. Usually, figurative speech allows the author to present an abstract concept or description of the respective subject matter. This explains the constant use of figures of speech such as metaphors, similes or synecdoche in order to further the intended objective. Other figures of speech also emphasize the subject matter based on sounds. For instance, figures of speech such as alliteration and assonance aid in fulfilling this aim. Additionally, figurative speech enables readers to develop a vivid concept of the author’s description. Thus, the intended reader understands the respective topic from the author’s point of view. The use of figurative speech is also evident in Robert Olen Butler’s Mother of Trenches.

One of the first figures of speech in the short story involves the use of a simile. Similes provide comparisons between two objects in a connective manner. In the narrative, the persona, while giving a description of his son, Kaiser Wilhelm, describes the man by stating that he is “as hollow as a soufflé” (Butler 19). This figure of speech appears directly after the persona declares that his man is conceited. As such, the figure of speech implies the proud nature that the persona’s husband embraces; an aspect that she does not support nor appreciate at all. Additionally, there is also further evidence of figurative language. For instance, the persona states that, “…but God help me if I’ll let him be a man yet without a fight” (Butler 19). One might think that the persona will literally fight against his son. However, this is not the case. The persona’s use of the metaphor implies that she will do her best to raise her son effectually until he becomes a full man.

As the narrative progresses, Butler still uses figurative language. For instance, while the persona reminisces of her son, she states that, “…if I can remember so clearly lifting his wee body up and placing it on a rectangle of cotton clean from the boiling pot…” (Butler 19). The phrases ‘cotton clean’ connotes alliteration. Even though these two words do not relate, the author purposefully neglects the use of a comma in order to imply the figure of speech. In the same chapter, the persona also states that, “…and warm from the sun and I swaddle him up and hold him against me and he is gentle and he is quiet and I carry him away, carry him through the world” (Butler 19). The phrase, ‘carry him through the world’ is metaphoric and implies the persona’s act of nurturing her son.

Further proof of figurative speech is evident where the persona states that, “my hands are full” (Butler, 20). Her statement comes after the man she hired asks her if she will be his mother. The figure of speech, which is also a metaphor, implies that the persona already has a son and that all her attention is on him. Additionally, there is also use of personification as a figure of speech as the narrative progresses. As the persona travels towards her son’s regiment camp, the persona states that, “The cart creaked in the ruts of the road” (Butler 21). This statement allows the reader to view the cart as a living thing. This is according to the way the persona describes the cart as moving on its own will.

In conclusion, it is evident that Butler uses figurative speech in delivering his narrative. This is evident where his narrative’s title, ‘Mother of Trenches’ actually implies a figure of speech. From the instances provided, the reader is able to see that figurative speech plays an important role in amplifying the narrative. If the author presented his story in a literal way, then the reader would deem it as uninteresting. However, Butler’s use of figurative language makes Mother of Trenches a truly appealing and vivid narrative for the intended audience.





















Works Cited

Butler, Olen Robert. “Mother of Trenches.” Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards. Ed. Robert Olen Butler. New York: Grove Press, 2003. 19-29. Print


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