Metaphors and References in Crossbones

I’ve been considering the function of metaphors—here, the linking of characters and events to films and other media—in Crossbones. There are moments in the novel where characters imagine themselves or their situation, and the scene is connected to western films, film tropes, training videos, public memory, or stories. I think the act serves to enhance dramatic effect, but that enhancement may be for the character acting in the scene instead of the readers. YoungThing sneaking into the house in chapter one is probably the earliest example of a character using metaphor to enter into a role. By mentioning that his moves are pulled from or in reference to movies, tales, and videos on a jihadi website, the narrator could be informing readers of how YoungThing is imagining and dramatizing himself in the moment. Many of these metaphors seem to be grasps towards romanticized images or sections of history that have been solidified in public record with a bit of glamour or embellishment thanks to film, books, and other forms of media treatment.

A similar exercise is when political issues and events are conflated and likened to one another. The earliest instance might be when Ahl links different instances of terrorism through their shared “use of terrorism for political gain” (55). Ahl continues, stating that student protesters in the sixties sometimes resorted to (less fatal) acts of violence in order to encourage progress and criticizing the West’s tendency to package Islamic faith and terrorism together in media and conversation. Another (nearby) example is when Cambara suggests that the treatment of Somali piracy in western media makes the phenomenon seem unprecedented; her comment is in reference to a Chinese pirate Bile was reading about. In both scenes, sensationalized images of the Somalia are made less so, or rather, are placed within a global and historical context.

Bonding instances and acts together appears to be the goal for the cases of metaphorical networking I’ve noticed, but I don’t have a stable position on what (if anything) such linking does for Crossbones. The narrator, speaking through characters who are visiting Somalia like Ahl, openly states that Somalis like misdirection and “confounding issues”; such issues become so complicated that they become bottomless or extremely difficult to end and summarize/simplify (56). Mostly concerning phenomena rather than people, I thought of conflation as making something two-dimensional, three-dimensional; a process in which cases become less simple than their 2D form. Perhaps capturing moments where characters give moments, feelings, and actions depth through reference is a way of drawing attention to the idea that they’ve been simplified.



Citations reference the Penguin Edition
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