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Four Square Jane

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Four Square Jane
First edition (US)
AuthorEdgar Wallace
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherReaders Library Publishing (UK)
World Wide Publishing (US)
Publication date
Media typePrint

Four Square Jane is a 1929 thriller novel by the British writer Edgar Wallace.

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  • The art of the metaphor - Jane Hirshfield
  • An Evening with Jane Smiley - Point Loma Writer's Symposium By The Sea 2018


When we talk, sometimes we say things directly. "I'll be going to the store, I'll be back in five minutes." Other times though, we talk in a way that conjures up a small scene. "It's raining cats and dogs out," we say, or "I was waiting for the other shoe to drop." Metaphors are a way to talk about one thing by describing something else. That may seem roundabout, but it's not. Seeing and hearing and tasting are how we know anything first. The philosopher William James described the world of newborn infants as a "buzzing and blooming confusion." Abstract ideas are pale things compared to those first bees and blossoms. Metaphors think with the imagination and the senses. The hot chile peppers in them explode in the mouth and the mind. They're also precise. We don't really stop to think about a raindrop the size of an actual cat or dog, but as soon as I do, I realize that I'm quite certain the dog has to be a small one - a cocker spaniel, or a dachshund - and not a golden lab or Newfoundland. I think a beagle might be about right. A metaphor isn't true or untrue in any ordinary sense. Metaphors are art, not science, but they can still feel right or wrong. A metaphor that isn't good leaves you confused. You know what it means to feel like a square wheel, but not what it's like to be tired as a whale. There's a paradox to metaphors. They almost always say things that aren't true. If you say, "there's an elephant in the room," there isn't an actual one, looking for the peanut dish on the table. Metaphors get under your skin by ghosting right past the logical mind. Plus, we're used to thinking in images. Every night we dream impossible things. And when we wake up, that way of thinking's still in us. We take off our dream shoes, and button ourselves into our lives. Some metaphors include the words "like" or "as." "Sweet as honey," "strong as a tree." Those are called similes. A simile is a metaphor that admits it's making a comparison. Similes tend to make you think. Metaphors let you feel things directly. Take Shakespeare's famous metaphor, "All the world's a stage." "The world is like a stage" just seems thinner, and more boring. Metaphors can also live in verbs. Emily Dickinson begins a poem "I saw no way, the heavens were stitched," and we know instantly what it would feel like if the sky were a fabric sewn shut. They can live in adjectives too. "Still waters run deep," we say of someone quiet and thoughtful. And the deep matters as much as the stillness and the water do. One of the clearest places to find good metaphors is in poems. Take this haiku by the 18th century Japanese poet Issa. "On a branch floating downriver, a cricket singing." The first way to meet a metaphor is just to see the world through its eyes: An insect sings from a branch passing by in the middle of the river. Even as you see that though, some part of you recognizes in the image a small portrait of what it's like to live in this world of change and time, our human fate is to vanish, as surely as that small cricket will, and still, we do what it does. We live, we sing. Sometimes a poem takes a metaphor and extends it, building on one idea in many ways. Here's the beginning of Langston Hughes' famous poem "Mother to Son." "Well, son, I'll tell you. Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. It's had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor." Langston Hughes is making a metaphor that compares a hard life to a wrecked house you still have to live in. Those splinters and tacks feel real, they hurt your own feet and your own heart, but the mother is describing her life here, not her actual house. And hunger, and cold exhausting work and poverty are what's also inside those splinters. Metaphors aren't always about our human lives and feelings. The Chicago poet Carl Sandburg wrote "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches, and then moves on." The comparison here is simple. Fog is being described as a cat. But a good metaphor isn't a puzzle, or a way to convey hidden meanings, it's a way to let you feel and know something differently. No one who's heard this poem forgets it. You see fog, and there's a small grey cat nearby. Metaphors give words a way to go beyond their own meaning. They're handles on the door of what we can know, and of what we can imagine. Each door leads to some new house, and some new world that only that one handle can open. What's amazing is this: By making a handle, you can make a world.

Plot Overview

The novel is a collection of tales published in 1919 and 1920.

  1. "The Theft of the Lewinstein Jewels" published in The Weekly News, December 13, 1919
  2. "Jane in Custody" published in The Weekly News, December 20, 1919
  3. "The Stolen Romney" published in The Weekly News, December 27, 1919
  4. "The Murder in James Street" published in The Weekly News, January 10, 1920
  5. "Robbing the Royal Mail" published in The Weekly News, January 17, 1920
  6. "The Actress's Emerald Necklace" published in The Weekly News, January 24, 1920
  7. "The Secret of a Box of Cigars" published in The Weekly News, January 31, 1920
  8. "The End" published in The Weekly News, February 7, 1920


In 1961 it was turned into the film The Fourth Square, directed by Allan Davis as part of a long-running series of Wallace films made at Merton Park Studios.[1]


  1. ^ Goble p.487


  • Goble, Alan. The Complete Index to Literary Sources in Film. Walter de Gruyter, 1999.

This page was last edited on 15 December 2022, at 21:15
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