The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories

The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Darkness/Night (Motif)

Characters frequently find themselves plunged into darkness at key moments - examples include "The Boarded Window," "The Middle Toe of the Right Foot," and "Moxon's Master." The darkness makes it difficult to see, creating a sense of ignorance and helplessness in the characters, and symbolizes the moral confusion and failings that have led them to this difficult point in time.

Panther (Motif)

In "The Eyes of the Panther," a panther terrifies the mother of Irene Marlowe so badly that she crushes her oldest child to death and then gives birth to a shapeshifting second child. In "The Boarded Window," a panther tries to take the body of Murlock's wife before she is fully dead. In both of these cases, the panther symbolizes a sense of wildness and mystery, a natural threat that has close connections to the supernatural. This may be related to the panther's activity at night as well as its scream, which is said to resemble that of a woman.

The Boarded Window (Allegory)

In "The Boarded Window," the boarded window is a potent symbol, and by beginning the story with a description of it, Bierce creates a subtle tension in the reader, who wishes to know why it was broken. The broken window also serves as a symbol of the major effect that the events described in the story had on Murlock; though many years have passed, he never repairs the window nor does he recover from the sorrow of this experience.

The Tapping Trees (Symbol)

In "John Bartine's Watch," before John Bartine's friend tricks him into looking at the watch just before 11, an act which will cause his death, he hears outside: "The boughs of the trees tapped significantly on the window panes, as if asking for admittance" (63). This personification of the trees as concerned individuals is symbolic of the regret he feels about bringing about the death of his friend; they express the sort of consideration that he should have given to his friend.

The Raven (symbol)

In "A Holy Terror," a raven appears just as Jefferson starts to dig up the grave of Scarry. "At that moment a raven, which had silently settled upon a branch of the blasted tree above his head, solemnly snapped its beak and uttered its mind about the matter with an approving croak" (52). This creature symbolizes Jefferson's impending death. Ravens are associated with death in many cultures, and this one seems to be expressing approval about an act that will lead directly to Jefferson's death.