The Demon in the Freezer

Use of Syntax and Diction to Evoke Fear in The Demon in the Freezer

In his novel The Demon in the Freezer, Richard Preston addresses the American public’s increasing concern about the threat of terrorism after the events of 9/11. As the anthrax scare began spreading through the country, people became more fearful about what might happen next. This novel tries to alert the public to the looming threat that such a biological terror attack could pose. Preston uses uncertain diction and short, startling sentences to create apprehension in the reader that impresses upon him the menace of biological weapons.

Preston begins by using numerous words that indicate uncertainty, wording many of his sentences to reflect the fact that he is uncertain about some details concerning smallpox. The word choice directly affects the reader as Preston’s uncertainty translates into uncertainty in the reader. For example, when Preston describes the smallpox vault at the CDC’s repository, his description is full of guesses and conjectures:

The variola vault…may be disguised. You might look straight at the vault and not know that your eyes are resting on the place where half of the world’s known smallpox is hidden. There may be more than one variola vault. There may be a decoy vault…it could be disguised to look like a...

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