Life is ruthless, petty, disengaged and full of mysterious, irrational calamities (Maupassant 897). Absolutely to the point of these arguments did John Buchan compose his short story 'The Watcher by the Threshold.' The short story is an example of the 19th-century literature dominated by realism with the expression of everyday events, life, and relationships. In the story, Buchan gives the account of his cousin come past lover Sibyl married to his friend. Sibyl husband is suffering and appears to be possessed and haunted by some ancient ghost. Rarely does a horror tale reflects real life to the extent that the reader is thrilled and scared from the regularity echoed in words. Buchan accomplishes this by using specific literary techniques such as vivid description and imagery, personification, simile and metaphors that create a significant impact on readers. Together with the unfolding plot, the literary methods work well to make readers paint accurate pictures in their mind.
Vivid description is the literary technique that has been employed significantly in this story. Barely a page goes without you realizing occurrences of vivid description. However, it is in the first sections of the narration where many incidents of vivid descriptions are exploited. Concrete details and use of active voice is widespread in the opening parts of the paper. This is one of the characteristics of vivid description literary technique. For example, "...till I emerged on the platform at Morefoot." (Buchan). The use of vivid description is because perhaps the author is trying to create a distinction between Glenaicill, where he works and lives and Moorland where he is bound. Buchan describes Glenaicill as a place where, "The earth smelt heavy and raw..." and on the contrast assert that in Glenaicill "...where wind and sun and flying showers were never absent." From the description, the reader can realize the difference between the two places. Likewise, the author intends the readers to experience his journey and what he came across while traveling. Vivid descriptions make the reader have a first-hand experience of the narration. Through this technique, the reader feels that they are standing right at the place the author is describing. For example, the statement "Framed in dank, mysterious woods and a country of coal and ironstone..." (Buchan) is a brilliant description of the place the author was passing by. It triggers the imagination, and one feels traveling alongside the narrator. Equally, describing the house and claiming that it "had a cunning charm, mystery dwelt in every, cranny" creates the vision of a scary place in the reader's mind.
On a similar note, the use of imagery or put differently, figurative language in the story also helps the reader create visual images in their minds. The literally technique appears in some instances across the narration. The author challenges the partially incorrect idea that imagery is merely words that are used to create mental pictures. From the story, it turns out that imagery is rather complex than thought of earlier and not only appeals to visual senses but also auditory, touch, smell, and taste. For example, the narrator extensively appeals to the reader's sense of hearing. Buchan describes that "...Ladlaw gave a curious childish cry." The imagery of a crying child enables the reader to imagine the sound Ladlaw made. Equally, the author describes how Ladlaw held his hand firmly. He says that he held his arm with a fierce grip that nearly made him cry out. You can imagine how this felt on the narrator. This imagery appeals to the reader's sense of touch. Appeal to the sense of smell is equally achieved with the description that the earth smelt heavy and also the description that Highland Glen smelt fresh. All these combined create a graphic presentation of scenes in the narration and makes understanding the narrative easy.
The use of personification in the story makes the piece interesting and relatable. Personification gives natural objects human abilities to make it easy for readers to get the connection with the things described. One of the effects that personification brought in this narration is that it makes someone curious about the story. For example, when Buchan said that "...mystery dwelt in every cranny" there is the curiosity of what is this mystery up to since it has human abilities, are we yet to see a ghost conjure itself out of thin air and show itself to the narrator. Personification in the story also enables the reader to relate vividly to the scene in a description. In other words, personification helps boosts the reader's sensitivity. Another example of personification from the story is in the evening where Buchan gives the sun the human quality of dying; he describes, "...last dying spark of the sun." From here the reader will understand quickly that with the dying sparkles of the sun, it is evening. No much explanation required. Equally personification in the story has been used to make the nature and the role of innate things to be clear. When the author says the library was ready to receive them, the reader understands that the library was a warm place where guests could spend time and have some private talks.
Another critical literary technique employed to enhance visuality of the reader are similes and metaphors. This literary technique compares two different things to bring a similarity. When applied in literature, the method makes it easy for the reader to visualize and understand the intended message. Comparing two things has the visualization effects on the reader. An example in the story is presented when the narrator states that he cannot imagine how his cousin has managed to stay alone with his sick husband in this wilderness. The author compares Moorland to a wilderness. Desert is a place of hardship, and as a result, there is a feeling that life was not comfortable in moorland. On the same note, the author compares Ladlaw's home to a barrack house. This also creates the vision and feeling that this is a silent and fun less place. Moorland is also described as one great sponge. This comparison paints the picture of a soggy home with difficulty. The author's comparisons paint the picture of Moorland to be an unpleasant place.
In conclusion, without the brilliant use of the literary technique in bus Buchan, readers could have missed some of the intended messages. The importance of vivid descriptions, imagery, personification, and metaphors is that they enhance the readers understanding of a literary piece. Altogether, the four senses of the reader are engaged which not only makes the story exciting but also easy to subsequently, other aspects of the story such as themes can be understood, and the purpose of the story achieved.
Buchan, John. The Watcher by the Threshold: Shorter Scottish Fiction. Canongate Books, 1997.
Maupassant, Guy de. "The Writer's Goal." The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction (2003): 896-898.
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