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Written by Connie Skibinski
"He hadn't crawled shivering from his bed at two o'clock in the morning and bumped over twelve miles of frozen snow, staring sleepily ahead till the lonely farm showed in the headlights. He hadn't climbed half a mile of white fell-side to the doorless barn where his patient lay." (Ch. 1) (p.7)
In this quote, imagery is used to convey Herriot's initial struggle adapting to the demanding lifestyle of the country vet. Bleak natural imagery is used to create an ominous image of the landscape devoured by snow. As well as this, images of dilapidated and derelict infrastructure, such as the "lonely farm" and "doorless barn", further convey this negative tone. In this way stark, somber imagery evokes a strong sense of difficulty and struggle.
"The formless heights were resolved into high, grassy hills and wide valleys. In the valley bottoms, rivers twisted among the trees and solid grey-stone farmhouses lay among islands of cultivated land which pushed bright green promontories up the hillsides into the dark tide of heather which lapped from the summits." (Ch. 2) (p.15)
The evocative natural imagery in this quote juxtaposes with the bleak imagery in the quote above. This quote captures Herriot's optimistic first impression of the beautiful landscape at Darrowby. Lush natural imagery is used to convey a sense of the sublime, as Herriot is overwhelmed by the magnificence of nature. Language is used to create a sense of eternity and endlessness, through terms such as "formless heights" and "wide valleys." Agricultural jargon, such as "cultivated land" is also significant. This thus presents a tranquil place that is abundant with life. Positive imagery is used many times throughout the novel to capture Herriot's great admiration of the landscape.
"So many of these occasions ended with the floor strewn with heads, legs, heaps of intestines. There were thick text books devoted to the countless ways you could cut up a calf." (Ch. 1) (p.8)
This is an example of the grotesque medical imagery througout the novel. This gives the book a sense of authenticity, as it conveys the reality of being a vet and the procedures and operations they undertake. The author skilfully uses synecdoche, as the disparate body parts relate to the cow's physicality. The purpose of this quote is not to alienate the reader. Instead, this quote provides a clinical description of animal surgery, as can be seen through the reference to text books.
"He was about fifty and something had to be responsible for the fleshy, mottled cheeks, the swimmy eyes and the pattern of purple veins which chased each other over his prominent nose. He wore a permanently insulted expression." (Ch. 22) (p.139)
This quote utilities distorted corporeal imagery, as it provides a grotesque account of the man's form, flesh and physicality. The description is deliberately unsettling. This can be seen through the accumulation of adjectives with negative connotations - "swimmy", "mottled" - and the personification of the man's veins. This description provides great insight into Mr Grier's characterisation, as it presents him as harsh, blunt and unlikeable. The reader is encouraged to share the persona's distrust towards Mr Grier, and thus, we empathise with Herriot's situation.
"In April the rain squalls drifted in slow, heavy veils across the great green and brown dappled expanse. There was a day, too, when I stood in brilliant sunshine looking down over miles of thick fog like a rippling layer of cotton wool with dark tufts of trees and hilltops pushing through here and there." (Ch. 36) (p.235)
This is another example of optimistic, evocative natural imagery in the novel. This quote occurs after Herriot has spent more than a year in Darrowby, and is becoming accustomed to the climate and way of life. Though the winter landscape symbolises hardship and challenges, this beautiful April spring climate represents Herriot's sense of ease and tranquility. This sense of beauty is captured through the rich colour imagery, as well as the simile "like a rippling layer of cotton wool."
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