Use of Figurative Language in Writing

In the 1940s, Latin women in the American society went through many hardships. This arises from the media’s portrayal of them in numerous stereotypes. In an article titled ‘The Myth of the Latin Woman’, Judith Ortiz demonstrates to the general public some of the stereotypes she had to keep up with while growing up in New Jersey State, in the United States. Ortiz employs descriptive language to give the general public a taste of the hardship she had to put up with in her early years in the United States. Though repetitive and contradictory at some points, this writer makes use of figurative language rather successfully (207).

Cofer writes “our family lived ...... where life was a microcosm of my parents’ casas on the island.” Here, this writer uses a metaphor to emphasize to the reader that their life in New Jersey was a reflection of their traditional Latin one. Reading through this statement, the reader is able to appreciate how much this woman and her immediate family loved and embraced their native culture even in a foreign land. This writer also employs a smile in her writing. She states in the article, “….virtual and modesty were, by cultural equation, the same as family honor.” Through this smile, this writer helps the reader to see how the Latin family, from which this woman hailed, valued a virtuous way of life (204).

Imagery is also evident in this article. For example, this writer says that “as a teenager, she was instructed on how to behave as a proper senorita.” While it might imply an unmarried Spanish woman, a senorita is in most cases a container or car for sale or hire. This highly technical use of imagery assists the reader in understanding the Latin conception of the woman—which contradicted the American stereotype (204). In particular, this imagery use helps the reader realize why this woman faced numerous hardships in the settings of the American society. In a nutshell, this the Latin woman, as opposed to the American stereotype, was nurtured right from the teenage years for a certain purpose—to be sold off later at some points. In the contrary, the American society perceived her as a whore (204).

To illustrate to the reader the American society stereotype towards Hispanic women, this writer uses another metaphor—“Hot Tamale”. This figurative language, which compares the American conception of the Hispanic women with a delicious traditional Latin American dish, serves a critical role in depicting the picture of this woman to the minds the reader. This figurative language helps the reader visualize the position and general conception of the Hispanic woman in the society. The writer mentions “Hispanic companeras” in her article. This is a classical use of figurative language—metaphor which further assists the reader to get an insight of the American society’s perception of people who were not inherently Americans. Even though it is a repetition because by using “Hot Tamale” she delivered the Hispanic woman’s position in the society, it still serves a purpose. It emphasizes to the reader that in the American society of the time, the Hispanic females exhibited intense passion.

While this writer successfully uses figurative language in numerous instances, in some cases, this writing technique of hers bring contradiction and greatly confuses the reader. For example, she writes “a young man, obviously fresh from a pub ...... went down on his knees in the aisle. With both hand over his heart, he broke into an Irish terror’s rendition of ‘Maria’ from ‘West Side Story’…” True, statement of a man fresh from the pub is an appealing use of imagery to the reader. In actual fact, it serves to underline that this man, was acting out of his drank behaviors (203). The reader is able to recognize that back in those days when this work was written, taking beer among the youth was still a prevalent behavior. However, the conception of ‘Maria’ in the 1940s movie ‘West Side Story’ is contradicting and confusing (204).

Right from the start, this writer has used figurative language to draw a picture of a Latin woman who is undermined in the American society. However, by introducing a character like ‘Maria’ in the context, the reader is left wondering which direction this figurative language is directing the story. This is because in this movie of the time, the character ‘Maria’ was a symbol of conquest in the society. ‘Maria’ was somebody who had completely adapted to the American way of life and stood above the rest. Considering that ‘Maria’ in the movie ‘West Side Story’ was a symbol of the contemporary woman of the time, and in view of the fact that this writer has used other figurative language to depict herself and her family as conservative in their Latin cultural context, the writer does not convey any convincing information to her audience (203).

The concept of Catholic Church as a symbol of morality among the Latinos and Spanish, in addition, does not serve to adequately inform the reader. She writes “women..... felt freer to dress and move more provocatively…….since they were protected by the Spanish/Catholic system (205). It might not be very clear how this mainstream church could accommodate such extremism and uphold morality at the same time. However, apart from these notable contradictions in her article, this writer employs figurative language and successfully draws a picture of the setting in her early life. In this light, it is safe to say that figurative language, if relevantly applied, can be instrumental in delivering a certain message in academic work. However, use of figurative language should be moderated to avoid confusion. This is informed by the fact that some of the images one uses in certain work might imply something else in another context.

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