Figurative Language in Cherry Bomb by Maxine Clair
In Maxine Clair’s “Cherry Bomb,” a woman recounts the memories of her life back in fifth grade, specifically how she came to possess a cherry bomb that would be very special to her in the following years. The author makes use of flavorful diction, descriptive figurative language, and shifting point of view to characterize the narrator’s colorful image of the past as a time of youthful innocence and nostalgic recollection.
Throughout the passage, the narrator describes aspects of her world with words any child would. As she recalls that summer, she remembers her local ice cream truck, senile war veteran neighbors, and times she played with her cousins. The author describes these moments and people with words like “that old thing” and “help-him-out block” when referring to the ice cream man’s truck and the blocks of ice he’d offer to the narrator in the hot summer. The use of the adjectival phrases “Daddy-said-so” and “God-is-whipping-you” to describe the hairy man and the piece of tin that flew towards Eddy’s eye, respectively, give flavor to the narrator’s speech, and show that she recalls the memories of her childhood with the same youthful spirit.
Figurative language dots the excerpt throughout, giving the reader a more precise view of the narrator’s memory and characterizing said memory as vivid yet contained. The narrator uses Biblical allusion of Egypt’s “plague of locusts” to describe her own local infestation, even though hers is much less serious in scope and magnitude. This comparison of the great to the small as equals mirrors a child’s outlook on certain aspects of life, as they typically make large problems and events out of small ones. As she describes her closet that houses her private box, she mentions her father as having been “shipped out to the dot in the Pacific Ocean” where the women “looked as fine as wine in the summertime.” The author’s use of metaphor and simile to compare an island to a dot, and women to fine wine show the narrator’s youth in that she merely recalls the island her father is stationed on as a dot, and believes what he said about the women there enough to parrot it as fact.
As the narrator describes the passage to the hiding place of her secret box, the point of view temporarily shifts to a second person style. The author begins multiple sentences with “If you” almost as if referencing the reader directly. The repeated use of “if you” to describe the many steps to reaching the private box, such as “if you closed your eyes, held out your hands…..on the
floor” demonstrate that the narrator clearly remembers this aspect of her past,
and that it is an important memory to her.