A View of Jason Mcnamara’s Terminology as Illustrated in His Book, the Rattler
The Rattler’s Diction
The Rattler takes the reader on the mental journey that the narrator experiences. Throughout the excerpt, he travels great distances in his mind’s eye, ending up in places he didn’t even know were there. The encounter of a snake which poses a threat to his ranch causes the narrator to have to go against his morals and kill the snake for the greater good.
At first, he knows very clearly that killing the snake is wrong. His first instinct is to be passive and let the snake go on its way. He has no desire to inflict any sort of violence on this creature. Thinking of the people on the ranch, he decides he must kill the snake, although he is reluctant to do so. As the narrator approaches the snake, his mind shifts, perhaps back into its natural human instincts, which are to kill or be killed. When the narrator attacks the snake, he does it with a newfound fury. He hacks at the snake with the hoe and breaks its neck with no hesitation.
When the narrator first chose the hoe as his method to dispose of the snake, he did it to make sure the snake had at least a fighting chance at life. If he were to have used a gun, the snake would have had no chance at all to survive. To give the snake a fair fight was to give him a proud and noble death. However, by the end of the passage, the man has changed his mental state into one that feels the snake’s death is a victory for himself. He does not even respect the snake enough to turn his rattles into a trophy that marks the good fight he put up. Instead, the narrator lets him drop into a bush, disregarding him as nothing. Just as he does this, he sees the snake as if he has released him. His primal urges have faded and he once again becomes nonviolent towards the snake, although it is too late.
The vision the narrator has about the snake reveals the final mental transition of the story. It reveals that the man was not fighting a snake; he was fighting himself. The reason the narrator personifies the snake is because he sees the snake as himself. The snake represents the nonviolent side of narrator, the side the narrator wishes he could be. The snake acts calm towards the narrator at first and only attacks when he is provoked, showing he only acts violent when it is in defense. When the narrator kills the snake, he is killing the part of himself that had any nonviolent tendencies. In an act of violence, he destroys the part of him that had been passive, and he gives in to human instinct to kill.
The vision the narrator sees after killing the snake is him thinking of what could have been. Had he let the snake live, the peaceful side of him could have also lived on. He describes the snake as self respecting as he imagines it leaving with its life. This represents how he could have gone on respecting himself if he had not given into his desire to kill. Had he let the snake live, he could have been mentally free just as the snake would have been physically free. However, in killing the snake, he cursed himself with a mental burden that will always be stuck in his mind, just as the snake will forever be stuck in the paper-bag bush.
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