In “The Rattler”, Peattie’s uses literary techniques to contribute to a somber ambiance.
Peattie uses organization and selection of detail to convey sense. His language helps the reader see the snake in a new light. Peattie’s use of a metaphor foreshadows the outcome of the story. Finally, Peattie’s use of first person helps the reader further understand the character’s dilemma.
In the first paragraph, Peattie uses organization and selection of detail to convey a sense of calmness. Organizationally, Peattie achieves this calmness by using ellipses to break up the first sentence. After sunset… I walked out into the desert…” (Peattie 5).
The sense of calmness becomes even more evident because the character believes that he “was the only thing abroad” (Peattie 5). However, this calmness gets interrupted. “Abruptly I stopped short” (Peattie 5).The length of this sentence, compared to the other sentences in the paragraph, conveys a sudden sense of urgency and panic. Where the sentences had been long and drawn out, this sentence is short and choppy. This correlates with the thought process of a panicked person.
Peattie’s language displays the snake as an intelligent, dangerous creature. It was a rattlesnake – and knew it” (Peattie 5). Because of its intelligence, the snake knows how lethal its bite is. This knowledge grants the snake power; and those with power do not move for anyone. “the rattler felt no necessity of getting out of anybody’s path” (Peattie 5). The character attempts to kill the snake and the snake feels that that character “had made an unprovoked attack, attempted to take his life” (Peattie 5).
Because of this unprovoked attack on its life, the snake feels that he must kill the character. “he would have no choice but to take mine if he could” (Peattie 5).This sense of justice further displays the snake’s intelligence. After the character kills the snake, the snake still attempts to kill the man.
“some mechanical reflex made his jaws gape and snap once more – proving that a dead snake may still bite” (Peattie 5). This eerie postmortem attack hammers in the snake’s lethality. Peattie’s use of metaphors foreshadows the outcome of the encounter between the character and the snake. “I listened for a minute to this little song of death” (Peattie 5). This foreshadows somebody would not survive the encounter.Both the character and the snake understand and accept this fate. “It said that life was dear, and would be dearly sold” (Peattie 5).
Throughout “The Rattler”, Peattie uses first person point of view. This helps the reader view the character’s internal dilemma. He does not want to kill the snake because he does not enjoy killing.
“the sport in taking life is a satisfaction I can’t feel” (Peattie 5). However, he must, in order to protect his family and his ranch. “my duty, plainly, was to kill the snake” (Peattie 5). After he kills the snake, the character regrets his actions.He envisions the peace that the snake might have had, had he let it live.
“Then for a moment I could see him as I might have let him go, sinuous and self-respecting in departure over the twilit sands” (Peattie 5). Peattie use of literary techniques gives “The Rattler” an overall somber ambiance. Through these techniques, Peattie transforms the relatively mundane action of killing a snake into a meaningful and profound situation. The reader leaves the story thinking about the animals they have killed; and whether or not they deserved to die.