‘Where have you been all day?’ said Philip. ‘I waited for you. Let’s go out and eat.’

‘I’m going on the train. Tonight.’

‘Wait another couple of days. We’ll fly back.’

She shook her head. The music stopped and the screen was filled with the smiling face of a young man.

‘Course,’ said the man, the boy, ‘an album’s a major statement of where a band’s at creatively.’

‘Aren’t you being a bit iron-clad?’ said Philip. He swung his feet to the floor. ‘It’s because I didn’t come back last night, isn’t it.’

‘Dexter came looking for me.’

‘Here?’ He laughed, and turned off the television. ‘Bloody Elizabeth. Big-mouth.’

‘I sent him away. He was crying.’

He bent his knees in front of the mirror and flicked his hair about. ‘I can’t help you with that one, Athena,’ he said. ‘Jealousy. You’ll have to handle that one on your own, I’m afraid.’

He straightened up and faced her. They were like two ghosts, now that the blood had gone out of them, two empty sets of garments hung opposite each other in a cupboard.

Explain: Athena and philip were in love with each other and now they are not in love with each other.

Does it mean "as they seemed like two dead person they were like two empty sets of garments hung opposite each other in a cupboard", the meaning of "empty" is unclear to me.

Source: The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

  • Isn't it pretty obvious that, if the garments are hanging up, nobody is wearing them, so they are 'empty'? Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 8:16
  • Yes, Thank you, I know that but I thought maybe it has special meaning farther than it. Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 8:46

1 Answer 1


It is a metaphor. Instead of being normal human beings with a body inhabited by a living soul, they seem to have lost all life, resembling empty garments which do not clothe a body, but hang in a cupboard.

Prompted by James, I will add that this is a particular kind of metaphor called simile:

Similes differ from other metaphors by highlighting the similarities between two things using comparison words such as "like", "as", "so", or " than", while other metaphors create an implicit comparison (i.e. saying something "is" something else). (Wikipedia)

  • since they were "like...two empty sets of garments", you could also mention that it is a "simile"
    – James K
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 8:20
  • True, thanks for pointing it out. Will edit.
    – fev
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 8:23
  • Lots of thanks for your answers and comments, I mentioned in my understanding that they seemed like two dead person..., I did not expect negative point! Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 8:45

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