Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Metaphors be with you.

José is 16 years old. He used to try to hit on me until he figured out that I am 21. "Oh, I'm really sorry," he said, "I thought you were 15."

My boss, Ron, had me working one-on-one with
José last week, because he was having a hard time understanding what a metaphor was and how to create one. Ron wanted the kids to use a metaphor to describe a sculpture in Millennium Park and then to use that to write a character monologue.

Ron's example of a metaphor was comparing himself to a burning candle. He is short, and he is getting shorter as he gets older, but he refuses to go out just yet, and he wants to spread the fire he has to as many other wicks as possible before he is extinguished.

With that as an example,
José was convinced that the definition of a metaphor was a series of ideas that aren't actually true and don't make any sense together anyway. He kept trying to create something that would fit that definition, but everything he wrote made too much sense or else felt too true, and he got frustrated. That's when Ron sent him to me.

We sat together and stared at the sculpture. He told me the sculpture looked like an upside-down turtle. "But the monologue is supposed to be from a person, not a turtle. I can't write a turtle monologue. I don't know what turtles think, and turtles aren't people, and, and --" Ok,
José, calm down. Write for a few minutes about what an upside-down turtle is like.

He wrote: "Stuck. Helpless. Vulnerable, because his shell is in the wrong place. He keeps trying to get up, but he rolls back. He might get killed and eaten."

José, forget the turtle, and talk to me about a person who is stuck and helpless and vulnerable and is protecting himself in all the wrong places and can't get up no matter how hard he tries.

José named the character Ben. Ben used to live with a girl named Maria, but it started getting weird after they slept together, and she moved out, heartbroken. He wasn't heartbroken. He hadn't let himself get close to her. He wouldn't let himself get close to a girl at all. But that was years ago, and he's starting to get lonely and desperate. He works at Chili's, and he should talk to the girls there, especially the one he thinks is so pretty, but he can't, because he is protecting himself from getting hurt. Ben has a best friend named Adam. Adam calls Ben and talks about the latest drama with his boyfriend. This makes Ben tired, and it makes him miss Maria. Not Maria, because he never really liked her, but he misses the idea of Maria.

José? Ben is an upside-down turtle. "No, that's not true at all. He's a waiter at Chili's." But he's stuck and miserable, even though he's tried to protect himself.

"Oh. .... Oh! Oh! It's a metaphor!" And then he wrote for twenty minutes.


Gregor said...

Nicely done, Miss Alyss.

Sarah said...

We've been having fun with metaphors here, too. And similes. My research advisor comes up with terrific ones. Our favorite of the summer (a simile, I'm afraid) is "metaphors are like isomorphisms." As my research partner would say, "think about it."

Philip said...

Well done. Great teaching technique.