John Chioles, a professor of comparative literature, using many literary devices in his works. In Before the Firing Squad, Chioles becomes a master imagery. This literary technique involves the author using metaphors, allusions, descriptive words, and similes to create vivid images in the readers minds.
Not only does this make a story more interesting and pleasant to read, it creates a sense that the reader is viewing, not reading, what is occurring. John Chioles uses imagery to represent the stark contrast between the German Ludwigs and Fritzs in Before the Firing Squad.
The first instance of imagery utilized by Chioles occurs when he writes, “my knees turned to jelly, my pulse quickened” after he hears the sirens indicating the Ludwigs are coming (Chioles, p. 543). The purpose of this statement is to represent the fear he has of the German black-coats which is in stark comparison to how Chioles uses imagery to describe the younger German soldiers known as Fritzs.
For example, he presents the first comparison between the two when he writes, “Their garrison of twelve soldiers stationed in the town wore mustard-colored uniforms, not the sinister black kind worn by the ones in the convoys” (p.544).
In addition, unlike the fear the black outfitted soldiers created, the garrisoned soldiers “spoke a softer kind of German” and “seemed very young and curiously happy” (p. 544). Chioles cements how the reader should view the dark coat Germans when he writes, “the dissonance of the enemy, something as ugly and efficient, and foreign to these parts as the unclean death they brought, appeared and disappeared, taking away the sun, leaving behind clouds of dust” (p. 544).
The use of the words ugly, foreign, and dust all create a picture of unpleasantness and even death. This is the image Chioles creates to contrast against the nicer yellow-coated Germans. Considering the latter when Chioles writes, “the small garrison, our German mascots,” it becomes evident that Chioles use of imagery is strictly for enhancing the contrast between the two types of Germans his town has encountered (p. 544). He is always sure to attribute positive imagery to the good Germans and negative imagery to the bad Germans.
This theme is carried on when the protagonist of the story has to run the mountains to avoid the bad Germans. He talks about how he will pick chamomile buds and wild tea leaves and how happy he will be when he gets to wear trousers (p. 545). However, when the Germans come into sight, he describes them as “ants in the distance” (p. 545). While this is a small statement, the imagery present reveals a lot. Naturally, ants are a very destructive force capable of destroying anything and everything they want.
Chioles uses this comparison to represent how powerful the German forces are and what they are capable of. He continues to write that the envoy “took on the color of running oil in the absence of the sun” (p. 545). When the Germans start to attack, Chioles expertly sets up the situation to represent how their forces are destroying a peaceful town. Right before machine gun bullets start flying in his direction, he describes the serenity of nature and how vast the forest was. The protagonist accidentally slips down the hill and severely injures his knee.
He describes it as “a whole patch of skin from [his] knee hanging upside down” (p. 545). This vivid imagery of a flesh wound is used to compliment how Fritz, a friendly german, responds to the situation. Upon seeing what had happened, he brings over a medical kit and patches up the wound. Ironically, Chioles uses imagery to reveal the inherent fear he has of all Germans when he describes Fritz when talking to him. According to the author, “Whenever he looked serious his eyebrows went from the straw color of his hair to a darker shade and he looked older.
Even his eyes did not keep the blue but went dark like the sea” (p. 546). This contrast indicates, at the very minimum, that Fritz has potential to harm. The contrast of yellow eyebrows to dark blue eyes is the same relationship the author established between the yellow outfitted soldiers and the ones in black uniforms. This shift and focus on imagery is epitomized when the firing squad comes into town and Fritz is the German with the machine gun and obligation to kill the women and children.
The author reverts to give him this dark image when he writes, “his eyes were dark and furious, hardly anyone recognized him” (p. 547). Luckily, for the townspeople, this was a mere act for Fritz to blend in with his peers because he does not shoot them. Instead he waits until the last minute, haphazardly shoots into the sky and “wave[s] goodbye at [them] with his legs” (p. 547). By having Fritz waiving by to them with his legs after pretending to shoot at them, Chioles employs the literary device of imagery to create an overall sense of hope for the future of Germany.