“She has a raging fire in her belly…”

So begins a student attempt, evidently, at purple prose. A mere fire in the belly is not enough for this character: it is raging. That’s okay by me. I like a few bits of imagery (preferably not contrite).

Actually, maybe this is an example of contrite imagery, since my writer goes on:

“She has a raging fire in her belly. The problem is that she hasn’t found anything that can ignite that fire.”

Can an unignited fire be called a fire at all? Maybe my student means she has some nice dry kindling in her belly but can’t find a spark to ignite it. That’s actually a pretty poignant idea, all that potential passion with nothing to bring it to life. Kind of like my composition class at 8 a.m.

I think, though, that the image isn’t meant to be that interesting. I think this is one more student who can’t manage the word “quench,” the word he should have used but seems not to have thought of.

When students do use this word, they tend to use it strangely—for example, in this description of King Lear: “No one could satisfy his quench for flattery.” How “quench his thirst” became “satisfy his quench” I cannot imagine. (I have never never, by the way, seen a student use “slake.”)

Ah, well, anyway, the advice for the day is, if you have a raging fire in your belly, do try to ignite it. If you have a raging fire in your kitchen, by all means quench it.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

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