“The Rattler” is a compelling chronicle of a man killing a rattlesnake. Although this man narrates the story, it is told from the perspective of the snake, as though the narrator is emphasizing the said serpent. The snake is seen as human-like and deserving of admiration and respect from the reader. The author accomplishes this by illustrating the narrator’s reverence for the snake and highlighting the narrator’s own impression of the rattler’s perspective. The reader sees the snake as an equal opponent to the man in the story because the man sees him as such. The reader’s impression of the snake is reflected upon the man’s in the story. Because the man narrates the story, the story is more intimate and allows direct communication of the appreciation the narrator has for the rattler. His esteem for the life of the snake is constantly demonstrated in the story.
He continuously refers to the snake not as “it” but as “he,” personifying the snake and elevating it to human status, demonstrating his respect for the life of the rattlesnake. The author lets the speaker’s humble intentions be known early in the story; the author makes it clear that his “first instinct was to let him go his way and I would go mine.” This demonstrates how the narrator sees the life of the snake as just as worthy of preservation as his own life. He decides, though, that his “duty, plainly, [is] to kill the snake,” not because he feels he must prove himself as a superior creature or save his own life, but because there are “children, dogs, horses at the ranch, as well as men and women lightly shod.” In saying this, the author makes it evident that there is a greater purpose in killing the rattler, that the persona sees his defeat of the rattler as undesirable yet necessary.
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The author subtly hints to the remorse that the narrator feels after killing the snake and to the reverence he has for the snake after death; he does not “cut the rattles off for a trophy,” and sees the snake “as he might have let him go, sinuous and self-respecting,” communicating the value of the life that he has just taken. The layered viewpoints in the story serve to give the reader a sense of the esteem that the narrator has for the snake, letting the reader feel the narrator’s admiration along with him. The story is shaped by the narrator’s feelings, which are evident in his descriptions of the rattler’s actions. The narrator’s bias directly affects the characterization of the snake and the mood of the story.
The way in which the author lets the reader have admiration for the snake is affective; the reader can relate to the respect the speaker has for the rattlesnake, because of the way in which the narrator’s perspective infuses with the perspective of the snake. The author emphasizes the value of the snake’s life by filtering the snake’s perspective through the narrator’s perspective. Because the narrator has respect for the snake, his descriptions of the snake are compassionate. The speaker describes the incident not through his eyes, but from how he imagines the snake’s perspective. The story is less of an account of the man’s killing of the snake than it is a detailed portrayal of the rattler’s attempt to defend its life.