"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. 1)
This image is evoked at the beginning of the narration, while Herriot delivers a baby calf in the middle of the night in the winter. 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. 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, pp. 8-9)
The evocative, natural imagery in this quote contrasts starkly with the bleak imagery in the quote above. This quote captures Herriot's optimistic first impression of the beautiful landscape at Darrowby as he travels to his interview with Seigfried, his future employer. 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 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. 2)
This image occurs in the first chapter, while Herriot is delivering a baby calf, and is thinking of what could happen if the baby calf were not alive. This is an example of the grotesque medical imagery throughout the novel. This gives the book a sense of authenticity, as it conveys the reality of being a vet through the procedures and operations they undertake. The author skillfully uses synecdoche here: 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. 127)
Herriot has just met the vet Angus Grier for the first time and is already aware that he is not a pleasant person. This quote utilizes distorted corporeal imagery: 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 characterization, as it presents him as harsh, blunt, and unlikeable. The reader is encouraged to distrust Mr. Grier, and so we empathize 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. 215)
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 symbolizes 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 color imagery, as well as through the simile "like a rippling layer of cotton wool."
All Creatures Great and Small Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for All Creatures Great and Small is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.