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Simile in In Cold Blood

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

In his book, ''In Cold Blood,'' Truman Capote uses many different techniques to help paint vivid pictures. For example, he uses similes to help describe the story. In this lesson, we will take a look at exactly what a simile is, and we will focus on three solid examples from the book.

Similes

Trying to solve this math problem is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. After reading this sentence, did you imagine someone fruitlessly trying to shove toothpaste back into the tube? The sentence uses a simile to compare the difficulty of the math problem to the difficulty of shoving that minty fresh paste back where it came from. Since the two actions are compared using the word ''like'', it is an example of a simile. Here is another, simpler example: Her face glowed like the sun. This sentence compares someone's face to the sun. We know that her face is not literally as bright as the sun. The sentence is meant to display how extremely happy the person is. Similes help us visualize scenes by comparing a new idea to something more familiar.

The Map

One example of a simile from In Cold Blood is when the narrator describes a map. We learn that ''the map was ragged, so thumbed that it had grown as supple as a piece of chamois.'' Chamois is very soft type of leather. In other words, the map was not a stiff and crisp piece of paper. It was heavily used. This simile uses 'as' to compare the map to a chamois. By comparing these two items, we get a clear mental image of how well-worn the map is. The author could have simply written, ''The map had been used a lot.'' This would have been accurate, but not nearly as interesting or engaging as the simile.

Nancy's Bedroom

Another example of a simile comes when Nancy's bedroom is described. We read that ''Nancy's bedroom was the smallest, most personal room in the house - girlish, and as frothy as a ballerina's tutu.'' Can you spot the simile in this sentence? If you focused in on ''as frothy as a ballerina's tutu'' then you got it right. Nancy's bedroom is being compared to a tutu. Just like most similes, the sentence could be simplified by saying something like ''Nancy's bedroom was girly.'' Even though this is accurate, describing it as being like a tutu helps us imagine a bushy, lacy tutu. It is interesting that Nancy is organized, gets good grades, and comes across as dedicated to working hard, but has this girlish bedroom. This suggests that despite all her hard work, Nancy has a somewhat hidden feminine side.

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