"It's a metaphor" I have no doubt that you completely understand and stand by this statement that the act of putting an unlit cigarette in Augustus Waters' mouth is in fact a metaphor. But for some folks, we don't see it asa metaphor, we see it as situational irony, or a simple statement. Please explain how it is a metaphor.
Well, a character in a novel saying that something is a metaphor is not the same thing as the author of the novel saying that it’s a metaphor. Gus’s intellectual grasp often exceeds his reach (he calls a monologue a soliloquy, and misuses quite a few of the bigger words in his vocabulary). But I do think the cigarette is a metaphor, albeit a different one for us than it is for him.
Gus’s idea is that the cigarette is a metaphor for illness, and he keeps it unlit and in his mouth as an expression of his power over illness. “You put the killing thing between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” Gus’s thinking here is that HE has the power. This is why he tends to use the cigarette when he’s feeling nervous or powerless. (He’s also using the most famous commercially available carcinogen to make this statement, so obviously there’s a connection there in his mind: Humans can prevent cancer by not smoking; cancer is something we can have power over; your job is not to give cancer the power to kill you; etc.)
But of course Gus is wrong about all of this, or at least almost all of it. You may have SOME control over whether you die of cancer (you can choose not to smoke), but in most cases humans don’t have control over illness. “You don’t give it the power to do its killing” imagines more agency over illness than we actually have, because in the end much of the fault is in the stars, not in ourselves. So to us, the unlit cigarette is a metaphor for our false perception of control, and our urgent need to feel in control. It’s no coincidence, then, that when Gus’s life is spiraling out of control and he finds himself powerless before fate, he tries (and fails) to buy cigarettes.
i) You’ll see him. His eyes will twinkle like stardust and his skin will radiate concentrated sunshine. His light will pull you in like moths to a bug zapper. Your eyes will be fixated on him, like if you look away you just might miss something. You won’t want to look away. You won’t want to be without him for even a second. His gaze will meet yours, and all of a sudden everything around you fades to black except for him. Your head will dizzy with the smell of his skin, acting as a sedative. And before you know it, you’ll walk over love-drunken and slur out letters, hoping it forms the words ‘hi, my name is: ________.’
ii) He’ll smile. As if he weren’t light enough in itself his face will beam with a biluminosity like a raging fire. It will burn to look at him when he’s smiling, but once again, you won’t be able to take your eyes off of him. He’ll move in slow motion— you will see every blink and movement as if it were traveling at half-speed. You’ll watch the end of his lips curl up in a smirk, creating three parenthesis that you’ll want to trace your finger across.
iii) He’ll speak. His voice will sound of the most melodious song and it will wrap around your eardrums like silk. The gentle hum of the vibration of his vocal cords will place you in a light hypnotic trance, lulling your soul into blissful serenity. You won’t even be able to make out all of the words he’s saying, but you know that they’re beautiful. He is beautiful.
iv) He’ll kiss you. All of a sudden everything inside of you is on fire— but it is a fire you’ll never want to put out. The warmth, the light, the liveliness of his lips touching yours is pure, raw, passion. His hand is around the back of your neck and you feel that if he wasn’t holding you up with his fingertips, that you’d collapse, because his kiss is both breathing life into your soul and sucking it all out. You will be weak in the knees, but your soul will be stronger than ever. The taste of his mouth will stay on your tongue forever. He will pull away, look you right in the eyes, and you will finally say, ‘this is home. I am home’
when i was in kindergarten i had this babysitter who cooked the best steak i’d ever had and i’d always ask what it was and she said “people” every time and i’d laugh and ask what it really was and she’d just reply “people” and i found out in first grade that she got arrested and was sentenced to 50 years-life in prison
and that’s the story about how my babysitter was basically hannibal lecter and i was will graham for a whole year