Making Hard Decisions In 'The Rattler'

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The Effect of Making Hard Decisions
Every day people face decisions they have to make. Although most times the right solution is obvious, some situations in life are not so simple. The lines between the “right” and “wrong” answer blur together as morals and multiple perspectives begin to play a role. This often causes the person to feel conflicted and trapped since whichever path they choose leads to some sort of regret. In “The Rattler”, the author explores this concept of hard decisions as he writes about the complexity of killing something in order to prevent future danger. The passage focuses on a man who decides to brutally kill a rattlesnake lying in the desert after happening upon it. However, it is clear that he feels no pride in his
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The beginning of the short story is set in a poetic desert scene. “Dry savory odors” are present and linger “sweet[ly] on the cooler air” while the man is taking a walk at dusk. This imagery brings to mind a tranquil time of the day, when everything has begun to rest. The atmosphere is pleasant or at least until the snake and man encounter each other. At that moment the mood suddenly shifts as man and snake stare at each other, waiting for the other to attack. There is tension in the air until the violence finally commences and the peacefulness of the setting shatters. The descriptions of the “dense” and “paper-bag” bushes nearby illustrate a harsher environment. They signify a struggle in non-desirable circumstances, which greatly contrasts with the past desert scene. When the snake dies, however, its death does not restore the previous setting. The man begins to deal with guilt, and out of respect, he moves the snake into the “close green guardian-ship” of the bushes. His actions represent a burial, as the snake is lowered into a closed area. Gone is the beautiful open desert, and in its place is a desert with an undercurrent of sorrow. This sorrowful mood drives empathy for the man, who is still dealing with thoughts of what could have happened if he let the snake go. Likewise, the tone adds to the sympathy for the snake that is now lying in the bushes dead. Though the desert still has “twilit sands”, a darkness has come over the setting, changed by the events. Through the author’s close attention to the stark difference of the setting and events, the effects of empathy and sympathy are

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