A line from the movie The Road:

There was a long shear of bright light, then a series of low concussions.

With the noun shear being a tool, I can't imagine what a shear of light would look like. I also thought it might figuratively refers to something shear-shaped, but still find it hard to conjure up the image. What does the word shear mean here?

  • Perhaps looking like a single blade of a pair of shears? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 17 '18 at 19:10
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo So like rays of light crossing paths? – Eddie Kal Aug 17 '18 at 19:42
  • I think it's just a metaphorical image, like the light is shearing something, not that the light literally looks like a shear. – stangdon Aug 17 '18 at 19:42
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    Could it have been a typo in the original MS? long spear of light would make more sense to me, or even smear. I wouldn't swear to it, though. – DrMoishe Pippik Aug 17 '18 at 21:41

In a blog I found from the context:

McCarthy’s work is nothing if not spare and meditative, and essentially no detail about the catastrophe is given.

Perhaps the author intended this description to convey ideas about what had happened. The Oxford dictionary has a meaning of shear

2 Break off or cause to break off, owing to a structural strain.

no object ‘the gear sheared and jammed in the rear wheel’

with object ‘the left wing had been almost completely sheared off’

These are not literal meanings here. The author may be using the word shear as a metaphor for a catastrophe that is not described in detail. It hints at the word sheer too, which conveys the idea of a break point.

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