Taken from City of Bones book:

He bore little resemblance to the handsome boy in the photograph, though his eyes were still black. His face was not what she had expected: It was a restrained, closed, interior face, the face of a priest, with sorrowful eyes.

I've looked up it's meaning in several places, though, found nothing regarding features or face expression. Does it bear the same meaning as closed and restrained : not showing emotions? I also wonder if it's a metaphor and not how interior is normally used.

2 Answers 2


The following is almost certainly the sense of interior being used in the context of the passage:

2 : belonging to mental or spiritual life
// a simple interior piety

The clue to this interpretation comes from what follows the word in the passage (emphasis mine):

… the face of a priest …

  • Wow Cambridge (my no.1 go to dictionary) and Macmillan don't have this meaning.
    – AIQ
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 3:30
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    That's the sense, but applied to a face, it's a metaphor. Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 3:34
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    @JackO'Flaherty Actually, I'm not certain if it is metaphorical. Before I looked this up, I hadn't known that sense of the word existed. In the more traditional sense of the word (inner or inside), I'd say it was metaphorical. But since this is a distinct sense of the adjective, confusing it with the other sense would be wrong. It seems more like its actual synonyms: a [peaceful / spiritual / pious] face. Of course, if you think those are also metaphors, that's fine. (I'd argue that they aren't.) Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 3:47
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    I see your point. I wouldn't call the others metaphorical. They say the face shows peace, spirituality, piety. I guess a face could reflect "interiority", or interior orientation, but it's a new thought to me. Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 3:55
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    @JackO'Flaherty I suppose it could have been described as a restrained, closed, priestly face, the face of a priest, but that wouldn't have read very well. ;) Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 4:05

I believe the use of "interior" in this passage is metaphorical. There can be more than one interpretation of the intended meaning. To me, describing someone as having an "interior face" makes me think that they are closed off to the external world, and instead dwelling primarily in their inner world - the world of thoughts, emotions, regrets, etc. This is supported by the description of "sorrowful eyes", and the adjective "closed" to describe the face. One gets the sense that the difference the story-teller sees between the picture of the man as a boy and now, is that the youthful openness to the world has been replaced with a more aloof exterior, likely as a result of experienced pain.

This is somewhat related to the top-rated answer, although to me the emphasis is less on spirituality and more on having become closed off to the "exterior" world.

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