Adults who read metaphor see examples of comparison and morals to understand the unknown.
“My race groaned. It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. . .
We didn’t breathe. We didn’t hope. We waited.
. . .And now it looks like Joe is mad. Louis is penetrating every block.
. .The fight is all over, ladies and gentlemen. . . Here he is. . . The winnah and still heavyweight champeen of the world. . .Joe Louis.”
—“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, Maya Angelou
A black child tells the story of her life from the ages of four to seventeen in a book I could not put down and just quoted. Maya’s story of suffering and oppression triumphs in the end because her spirit and courage will her to achievement. Her people were born into a life they didn’t have a say in. The image of the caged bird physically oppressed yet spiritually free was her way of using comparison to the black people of her time.
No other president in our history gave us a figure of speech as elegant as Lincoln did to strengthen us in grief. It was our engagement in a great civil war, the outcome of which was yet to be known. The battle was at midpoint when he dedicated the national cemetery at Gettysburg. His speech challenged the divided nation to see that
“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract . . . It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
“The unfinished work” of unity was Lincoln’s way of inspiring us to believe that we could heal.
The last lesson of metaphor is to understand the unknown. Jesus taught this through comparison in His Sermon on the Plain. By comparing the kingdom of God to a small seed growing tall, a lost pearl found, a wedding and a poor widow giving all of her money, Jesus used the human experience for us to understand this concept.
Metaphor began as lessons for children and follows as lessons in the adult world.
Next time, we’ll compare modern stories to classic stories.
Blog originally posted in 2012 and refreshed for sharing.