The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories

The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories Imagery

The Coming Night

"The man silently resumed his seat beside her on the rustic bench by the wayside. Over against them on the eastern side of the valley the hills were already sunset-flushed and the stillness all about was of that peculiar quality that foretells the twilight. Something of its mysterious and significant solemnity had imparted itself to the man’s mood. In the spiritual, as in the material world, are signs and presages of night." (2)

In "Eyes of the Panther," nighttime is falling as Irene Marlowe and Jenner Brading sit on a bench together. Irene tells Jenner why her insanity means she cannot marry him. Dusk is just beginning to fall, as the reader can tell from the fact that the eastern side of the valley (opposite the setting sun in the west) is "sunset-flushed." The tension as night begins to fall also sets the stage for the interaction between the characters - Irene is about to tell Jenner something very important about her life, something that will forever change the way he thinks of her.

The Face of Grossmith

"Deeply sunken beneath these glowed in the obscure light a pair of eyes of uncertain color, but obviously enough too small. There was something forbidding in their expression, which was not bettered by the cruel mouth and wide jaw. The nose was well enough, as noses go; one does not expect much of noses." (37)

In "The Middle Toe of the Right Foot," Grossmith is not a friendly character, and his appearance highlights his unlikeability. His eyes are sunken and small, his mouth is cruel, and his jaw is too wide; he is clearly rather ugly. Moreover, the concentration of words with negative connotations in this description ("sunken," "forbidding," "cruel") not only makes Grossmith stand out among the characters in the story, but also indicates that he is a dangerous person. Given that he murdered his wife and children, this description captures his personality as well as his physical appearance. The last part about noses is indicative of Bierce's famous wit - it is true that it's rather difficult to find much to say about noses.

The Shanties

"[Across the valley] extended a double row of forlorn shanties that seemed about to fall upon one another’s neck to bewail their desolation; while about an equal number appeared to have straggled up the slope on either hand and perched themselves upon commanding eminences, whence they craned forward to get a good view of the affecting scene. Most of these habitations were emaciated as by famine to the condition of mere skeletons, about which clung unlovely tatters of what might have been skin, but was really canvas." (48)

Through extensive use of personification, this quotation in "A Holy Terror" brings to life the desolation of the abandoned mining camp, Hurdy-Gurdy. The shanties are "forlorn" about to "fall upon one another's neck to bewail their desolation," though of course buildings do not have necks. This does, however, evoke the ramshackle quality of poorly-constructed buildings that have been abandoned for a very long time. The concentration of words with negative connotations ("emaciated," "skeletons," "unlovely") also creates an unsettling and frightening atmosphere in which the dead seem to have special power.

The Crowd at Night

"In some of the dwellings near by and across the way the chamber windows were thrown up, showing a protrusion of heads. All heads were asking questions, none heeding the questions of the others. A few of the windows with closed blinds were illuminated; the inmates of those rooms were dressing to come down. Exactly opposite the door of the house that they sought a street lamp threw a yellow, insufficient light upon the scene, seeming to say that it could disclose a good deal more if it wished." (79)

In "Watcher by the Dead," a great crowd has been drawn out by the ruckus between Mancher and Jarette, and Bierce deftly describes the scene. Each of the components seem weirdly divorced from the others (the people peering out from their windows are reduced to heads, for example), which highlights the eerie nature of the scene. Additionally, the secret puzzle of the event is hinted at by the suggestions that the street lamp could disclose a good deal more.