Personality Profiles

Personality Profiles

 
  1. An ambitious girl … that looks as though she should be kneeling before a crackling fire, stroking a pussy cat, but behind it all has nerves of iron, a will of iron, and a rigid mind cast only for the search for success —Harvey Swados
  2. As omnipotent and as full of faults as Jove —Wallace Stegner
  3. As with an iceberg, only the craggy tip [of his personality] was revealed to the stranger’s casual eye while the submerged seven eighths carried along like an unseen, irresistible force and solidity —Irvin S. Cobb
  4. Barely seemed human at all: more like some Chinese figurine all ivory and silk, that should suddenly have come to life, begun to dance, to quote the poets, and to laugh at everything in this ridiculous real world —George Santayana
  5. Elegant and remote … like a statue carved in melancholy thought —Sylvia Berkman

    See Also: REMOTENESS

  6. A fascinating but sometimes uneasy presence … as if he goes around with a black cloud over his head —Daniel Philips about fellow violinist Gidoa Kremer, New York Times, May 10, 1987
  7. Handsome, proud, and ingrown, “like a toe-nail” —James Baldwin

    The simile is an anonymous descriptions of Baldwin’s father quoted in his essay, Notes of a Native Son.

  8. He [Oliver Wendell Holmes] is a powerful battery, formed like a planting machine to gouge a deep self-beneficial groove through life —William James, letter to his brother Henry, July 5, 1876
  9. He [Col. Gadhafi of Libya] is like a Bedouin in a sandstorm … He [the Bedouin] bends over until it passes and then stands up strong as ever —Abdel Halim Abu Ghazala, defense minister of Egypt, Wall Street Journal, September 9, 1986
  10. He [John McEnroe] is still more like a New York cab driver, with an opinion about everything —Peter Alfano, New York Times/Sports of the Times, August 6, 1986

    The simile is part of Alfano’s speculation about the likelihood that McEnroe’s will become a “laid-back Californian.”

  11. He [waiter upon being tipped and smiled at] looked as if he had shaken hands with God —Raymond Chandler
  12. He looked as the dead do in dreams —Mavis Gallant
  13. He looked businesslike, efficient, crew-cut and handsome, like a Midwestern professor just after giving a lecture on Shaw or Pinero —Harvey Swados
  14. He looked hurried, as if he were catching a train or a boat —John Cheever
  15. He looked like a cowboy in a cigarette ad —John D. MacDonald

    Preceding this from MacDonald’s novel, Free Fall in Crimson, is this description: “A lean man with a deeply grooved face, an outdoor squint.”

  16. He [man in yellow suit, pinkish white shirt and greenish tie] looked like a friendly hound dog with light mange —Flannery O’Connor
  17. He looked like a man secretly gnawed by a scarcely endurable pain —Margaret Mitchell
  18. He looked like a man who had lost a penny and found a thousand pounds —Jimmy Sangster
  19. He [Gordon Cooper, astronaut] looked like a man who played on a semi-pro football team because he wasn’t big enough for the major leagues, and worked in a gas station the middle of the week —Norman Mailer
  20. He looked like a mean mouse —Truman Capote
  21. He looked like a piece of plot, standing there. An extra character, about to return to his mislaid car and his own life —Margaret Drabble
  22. He looked like someone who had been long buried and then dug up again —W. Somerset Maugham
  23. He somewhat resembled an owl, an angry, aging bird, recently balked of a field-mouse and looking about for another small animal to devour —Anthony Powell
  24. He was a bundle of contradictions that clashed like cymbals —Irvin S. Cobb
  25. He was a man around whom middle-age sat like a podium —William McIlvanney
  26. He was like a monk who’d created his own order —James Mills

    Mills uses the comparison in The Underground Empire to describe a man who is difficult to work for.

  27. His fifty-two years sat upon him like a finish which made youth appear crude —Edith Wharton
  28. Horatio looked handsomely miserable, like Hamlet slipping on a piece of orange-peel —Charles Dickens
  29. I am like a king of rainy country, wealthy but helpless, young and ripe with death —Charles Baudelaire
  30. I am like a martini. The gin part is New York, the vermouth, Washington, and I’m not talking about the olive —Morton B. Zuckerman at party to celebrate new Washington restaurant attended by mostly Washingtonians and some New Yorkers, New York Times July 31, 1986
  31. I look like a discouraged beetle battered by the rains of the Spring night —Colette
  32. Innocent as milk and a build like a chocolate eclair —William Barry Furlon on Jack Nicklaus

    See Also: INNOCENCE

  33. It is as if he were in an incubator, breathing his own air —Mikhail Baryshnikov, about Fred Astaire, Life interview, January, 1980
  34. Like people from Balzac, with their own individual characters and tastes —Janet Flanner

    Flanner’s simile is from a letter to her friend Natalia Danesi Murray about some enjoyable people with whom she spent a weekend.

  35. Like successful nuns, they [two older single women] had a slightly married air —Elizabeth Bowen
  36. Like the [neglected] building … she seemed to be a victim of overuse and neglect —Margaret Millar
  37. Like the hypochondriac who discovers a tumor under his arm with a surge of fatalistic joy, he has had his worst suspicions confirmed —T. Coraghessan Boyle
  38. (You are a bit …) like the stars; happily incomprehensible, incapable of producing anxiety —Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  39. Looked as if she had walked straight out of the ark —Sydney Smith
  40. Looked as wholesome, stiff and unshakable as a bowl of tapioca —Rex Reed

    The stiff and unshakable man Reed describes is Robert Redford.

  41. Looked … firm and impassable as a good privet hedge —Reynolds Price
  42. Looked, if not like a duke, at least like an actor of the old school who specialized in dukes’ parts —W. Somerset Maugham
  43. Looked like a beautiful and highly shockable nun —David Niven

    Niven used this simile to introduce his story about actress Mary Astor’s sexual life which, at the time would indeed have shocked a nun.

  44. (Dorothy Parker) looked like a bird at the mercy of every beast with teeth —Norman Mailer
  45. Looked like a choirboy gone to seed —Pat Conroy
  46. Looked like a man who had flown three and a half thousand miles with a hot coal in his mouth —Frank Ross
  47. Looked like a runaway from a whiskey bottle —Rosa Guy
  48. Looked like Lazarus risen from the dead —Mavis Gallant

    A slight variation seen in Ross Macdonald’s The Underground Man: “He looked like Lazarus coming out of the tomb.”

  49. Looked like someone whose spare time was devoted to calligraphy or stamp collecting —Jay Mclnerney
  50. Looked mid-to late thirties and as if she hadn’t wasted any time —William McIlvanney
  51. Looked pale, mysterious, like a lily, drowned under water —Virginia Woolf

    See Also: PALLOR, STRANGENESS

  52. Looked … something like a dissipated Robinson Crusoe —Charles Dickens
  53. Looked weak, exhausted, and helpless, like a man who has been discarded by an enemy who has no further use for him —Scott Spencer
  54. Looking strained and intent like a woman descending voluntarily into hell —Ross Macdonald
  55. Look like a drowned mouse —John Ray’s Proverbs
  56. Look like a funeral —Clifford Odets

    Odets had a flare for pithy comparisons, like this one from Awake and Sing.

  57. [Tennessee Williams] looks innocent-guilty, like a choirboy who has just been caught sneaking a bullfrog into the collection plate —Rex Reed
  58. Looks like a demented stallion sniffling out a mare in estrus —T. Coraghessan Boyle
  59. (Now he wears black horn-rims, and having lost weight and hair,) looks like an overworked insurance agent —Richard Ford

    In his novel, The Sportswriter, Ford profiles a character who has changed from looking “Like a grinning tractor-trailer in a plastic helmet” in his ball-playing days, to the above description.

  60. Looks middle-aged and respectable like someone’s favorite uncle —William Styron
  61. Look strangely weary and solitary … like a prospector preparing a meal in the midst of the wilderness —Christopher Isherwood
  62. A man like an unmade bed —Angela Carter
  63. A man of shifting contrasts, like watermarks on a desert horizon —Rex Reed

    The man of shifting contrasts is playwright Tennessee Williams.

  64. Maturity, disappointment, decline of expectations had settled upon Palmer … like the wrinkles caused by smiling —Elizabeth Hardwick
  65. A mind like a steel mousetrap and a heart like a twelve-minute egg —Jay Mclnerney

    See Also: KINDNESS, MIND

  66. Proceeded through life absented-mindedly, meditatively, as if considering some complex mathematical puzzle —Anne Tyler
  67. She looked like a woman capable of plotting a President up from his cradle —James Patterson
  68. She looks like a flower but she’s as tough as a weed —Robert Campbell
  69. She made Narcissus look like Mother Teresa —Peter Benchley
  70. She was like a beautiful flower which though its petals had not yet begun to drop, was already faded and without fragrance —Leo Tolstoy
  71. She [dimpled woman with conventional social responses] was like a musical box charged with popular airs —Edith Wharton
  72. Spongy and spoiled like a child king —Wilfrid Sheed
  73. Striped with good and evil like a giraffe —Delmore Schwartz

    See Also: EVIL

  74. That man is freckled like a trout with impropriety —Marianne Moore
  75. They looked like the people you see in ticket lines, trying to get tickets for sold-out football games —Larry McMurtry
  76. They looked as if they had been recruited wholesale from a Jewish nightmare —Angela Carter
  77. The three of them [girls sharing an apartment] … all as lovely and charming and gay as if they had been turned out by some heavenly production line —Mary Ladd Cavell
  78. (She was radiant; she) twinkled and glittered and dazzled like a diamond —Mary Ladd Cavell
  79. The ubiquitous cigarette in its holder makes him look brittle, like a terrible actor trapped in a “Masterpiece Theatre” production —Sharon Sheehe Stark
  80. Was like certain vegetables; transplant them and you stop their ripening —Honore de Balzac

    See Also: HABIT

  81. With her plump torso balanced on spiked heels, she [Bette Midler] teeters ahead faster than most people run, looking like a pheasant on amphetamines —Julie Salamon, Wall Street Journal, January 29, 1987
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