The words "unbreakable" and "tender" are opposite? Aren't they? But they were used together to discribe character of the writer? Or may be I misunderstood it. So,

Could you please tell me what the meaning of "I saw myself as unbreakable, as tender as stone" is?

The text is here:

he twisted my wrist further; my body was coiled tightly, my face scraping the floor. I’d done all I could do to relieve the pressure in my wrist. If he kept twisting, it would break. “Apologize,” he said. There was a long moment in which fire burned up my arm and into my brain. “I’m sorry,” I said. He dropped my wrist and I fell to the floor. I could hear his steps moving down the hall. I stood and quietly locked the bathroom door, then I stared into the mirror at the girl clutching her wrist. Her eyes were glassy and drops slid down her cheeks. I hated her for her weakness, for having a heart to break. That he could hurt her, that anyone could hurt her like that, was inexcusable. I’m only crying from the pain, I told myself. From the pain in my wrist. Not from anything else. This moment would define my memory of that night, and of the many nights like it, for a decade. In it I saw myself as unbreakable, as tender as stone. At first I merely believed this, until one day it became the truth. Then I was able to tell myself, without lying, that it didn’t affect me, that he didn’t affect me, because nothing affected me. I didn’t understand how morbidly right I was. How I had hollowed myself out. For all my obsessing over the consequences of that night, I had misunderstood the vital truth: that its not affecting me, that was its effect.

Educated by Tara Westover

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    We'd normally expect a more logical comparison - for example, as hard as stone / nails / iron / etc.. Presumably the writer thinks it's somehow "arty" to unexpectedly use tender instead of hard / tough / solid / indestructible, but personally I think it just looks "affected". Think of as tender as stone as being a stylised way of saying no more capable of tenderness / empathy than a stone would be (i.e. - as "un-tender" as a piece of rock). May 15, 2018 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


Stone is a particularly non-tender substance, so if someone says they are "as tender as a stone" this means they are very tough.

This is a simile. Normally when constructing a simile we use an example of something that has the property we are describing "As black as coal" or "as strong as an ox". The author here wants to break this normal pattern to use a simile that inverts this "As black as snow", or "as weak as an ox". By changing the pattern she makes her writing more surprising and more dramatic. Perhaps the reader expects the narrator to be "tender" so this inverts expectations.

You could try this in your own writing, but don't over use it, otherwise it would lose its ability to surprise your reader.

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