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Literary Devices in The Were-Wolf
Dramatic Irony: Dramatic irony occurs when readers of a text know something that some or all of the characters do not. Because of the shifting point of view used by Housman, readers are privy to information from a variety of characters early on—most importantly, White Fell’s true nature is revealed long before it is confirmed for all the characters, which makes Christian and Sweyn’s disagreement over her identity more tense.
Point of View: The point of view used in the story is third-person omniscient. The perspective first attaches itself to Rol and Sweyn, giving us glimpses of White Fell’s true nature until Christian arrives. With Christian’s arrival, the narration sticks to his perspective for the majority of the story and then returns to Sweyn just before the story’s end. The jumping perspective heightens the mystery and drama. Although readers know who is telling the truth and who is misinterpreting evidence, the characters do not, which increases the feeling of suspense.
Symbolism: From his name to his actions, Christian is a symbolic representation of the biblical figure Jesus Christ. Christian is selfless, driven to great sacrifice on behalf of those he loves. Descriptions of his body and his love for his brother recall biblical passages, and the last sentence of the story makes the comparison explicit. Consequently, White Fell can be read as a symbolizing death, temptation, and sin—which Christian must overcome to save his brother.
Literary Devices Examples in The Were-Wolf:
"The ring of despair and anguish in his tone angered Sweyn, misconstruing it. Jealousy urging to such presumption was intolerable...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Throughout this confrontation, the narrative point of view leaps between brothers on a sentence-by-sentence basis. This provides justification for Sweyn’s misunderstanding of Christian’s intentions, and it raises the tension of the scene by allowing readers to witness Sweyn’s and Christian’s emotions and rationale for their actions firsthand.
"Sweyn in his heart felt positive that it was...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Here the point of view switches for a moment to Sweyn, so readers can understand why he does not believe Christian’s claims about White Fell. This serves to humanize Sweyn’s character and give readers information about Christian—if he’s prone to odd imaginings, it is not unlikely that Sweyn wouldn’t immediately trust Christian’s instincts.
"Straight on—straight on towards the farm...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
The repetition in this line increases the suspense and sense of menace as Christian realizes that his family might be in danger. The emphasis on “straight on” suggests that the wolf has a goal in mind, immune to distractions or diversions.
"the absent Christian was hastening his return...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Quickly after the brief, foreboding look at White Fell’s face, the point of view shifts again, this time to a character who has only been mentioned up until this point: Christian, Sweyn’s brother. This heightens the story’s drama, as readers do not know what transpires in Christian’s family home after White Fell looks upon Rol’s wound with glee.
"so that none could see its expression. It had lighted up with a most awful glee...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Here the narrative point of view shifts briefly to focus on White Fell, providing information to readers that is unavailable to the story’s characters in a moment of dramatic irony. Readers are able to see that White Fell is overjoyed at the sight of Rol’s bloody hand, suggesting that she may be more sinister than her appearance suggests.
"And then the wind would rage after its lost prey, and rush round the house, rattling and shrieking at window and door...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Notice the unfriendly, almost hostile qualities associated with nature in this paragraph, which is personified in several ways: the fire’s smoke travels through the chimney’s intimidating “black mouth” up to the night sky, where it “rushes back in panic” due to fear of the night’s sounds and the wind, which lunges after the smoke like a predator. According to Rol’s perception, nature is frightening, but he is safe indoors from its “rattling and shrieking.”
"A few moments later Sweyn of the long legs felt a small hand caressing his foot,..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Notice how the point of view momentarily shifts to Sweyn as he beholds Rol’s under-the-table escapades. The shift occurs to maximize surprise as well as comedic effect.