Saturday, November 04, 2006

Exploring the Oomph

"Rand almost never compares an abstraction to a concrete or vice-versa, preferring to compare one concrete to another (the sky is like a huge furnace, smokestacks are fuming matchsticks, pine trees are tall red candles or like columns of dark brick, hotel towers are like the spokes of a fan, flat roofs are like pedals, roof gardens float down like handkerchiefs, stars are like foam)."

That's from Peter Saint-Andre's insightful essay on Rand's descriptive style, which I read some years ago.

You can see it fits that Anthem quote I had where furrowed fields are compared to a fan held by a giant hand.

I've been thinking about that "giant hand" metaphor. Last week, when I read it, I found it very moving, even though on the surface it was just a good visual description. To repeat, it goes like this:

"The fields are black and ploughed, and they lie like a great fan before us, with their furrows gathered in some hand beyond the sky, spreading forth from that hand, opening wide apart as they come toward us, like black pleats that sparkle with thin, green spangles."

I'm thinking that it was dramatically striking in the context of Anthem, because the setting of Anthem is relentlessly drab, a world in which exceptional human ability is a crime. The hero does not enjoy looking around the confines of the City, but he spends a lot of time looking at, and describing, the sky - as if that were his escape from his surroundings.

Now, in this context of oppressive smallness, our hero, just incidentally, imagines a mighty human hand of great power. I think this contrast is what gave the image its emotional oomph for me.

Later, of course, our hero masters the utilization of electricity, and refers to it as the power of the sky.

Our hero projects
His own special effects.

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