I'm reading Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations right now. It's fun and funny. I don't know why I haven't read more Dickens.*
Great Expectations contains a very interesting character named Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham was jilted at the altar once upon a time and on that day her life stopped, for all intents and purposes. She left the wedding decorations up in her house, left the banquet table set, left the wedding cake on the table to be eaten at by mice and covered over the years with spider webs. Miss Havisham still wears her wedding dress, which is now yellowed and tattered. She has not moved on from the catastrophe of her ruined wedding. She is still there, all these years later. When her relatives visit, Miss Havisham points to the banquet table and declares that upon her death, she will be laid on that table and her relatives will feed on her corpse. Hyperbole, yes. Of course they won't. But she means that metaphorically, while she literally lives out the metaphor of her life stopping on her wedding day.
A character like this could not exist in real life, but she's a wonderful invention in the novel. I'm wondering if there are other examples of literary characters who are living out metaphors. In Beckett's play Endgame, the protagonist's parents are living in trash cans. The set of the play is a version of the literal inside of the protagonist's head. Kobe Abe's novel The Woman in the Dunes is about a man imprisoned in a sand pit with a widow to live a sort of Sisyphean life in captivity, but the metaphor isn't quite so literal.
I've never really done anything like this. In my novel Killing Hamlet, I have characters staying in a ruined castle, but the castle is a metaphor in the traditional sense. Had I been making a metaphor literal, I'd have had the castle fall into decay around the characters' heads but not have them notice. I'd also have had the lord of the castle gradually decay and become a ghost, with nobody noticing, including him. Maybe next time.
What I mean by a living metaphor, or a literal metaphor, would be for example instead of saying "the forest was alive" you would make the forest quite literally be a sentient being. "He was beside himself with anger" would instead be a character who actually split in two when he was angry. Things like that.
Anyway, can you think of more examples of this Miss Havisham-style character, who lives out a metaphor? Have you ever written a character like Miss Havisham?
* I do know that I loathed Hard Times, the first Dickens I ever read, and I avoided him for years upon years until I gave A Tale of Two Cities a try a few years ago. It's flawed but mostly pretty great.