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From the very beginning , the title Terror somehow suggests fear and struggle that might be elaborated in the story, and as we continue to dive into the text we find out that this terror is deeply embedded in the main character’s mind and soul , a feeling of terror , that is c onveyed through the narrator’s words and w hich the story can not find the exact words to fully explain . Instead, the narrator resorts to comparisons such as comparing himself to an unrecognizable friend or to a man who is having a heart attack or comparing the thought of death to the screams of people or even his brain to a house.
So, this is all to express his mixed and contradictory emotions from which the story’s theme and a range of ambiguous, paradoxical as well as ambivalent meanings can be extracted and studied. Throughout the story , the narrator or main character continuously reveals his feelings of terror and how they are induced by his attempts to identify not only his unrecognized self but also others and everything surrounding him and also by his attempts que stion the existence and morality from which we can conclude that the main theme of the story is the theme of terror.
This theme is mentioned from the beginning as the narrator states that he sometimes gets this feeling of terror inside of him, a feeling that comes to him particularly in the middle of the night , as he becomes disacquainted with himself after long hours of work, when he would examine his unrecognizable face after accidentally glancing at his reflection on the mirror on his way to bed , he would become startled at the sight of himself in the mirror, someone that he does not identify as himself but rather as a stranger or as an old friend whom he has not seen in years .
So, the fact that he sometimes feels stranger to himself and some other times easily recognizes his identity and also is aware of the terror he regularly experiences, demonstrates ambivalence for these both conflicting emotions coexist together in a one man’s mind and soul. Another example of ambivalence in the story is when he recalls his contradictory feelings after seeing the woman he loves the most at the station , he remembers the torture of their separation as well as the happiness and easiness he once has felt with her. Again from this, it is asserted that it is ambivalent for the person who has made him feel happy has made him unhappy as well. Also, the same th ing goes for the terror he feels after analysing her face features while she is darning a pair of stockings but also the easiness that comes over him as she rises her head and smiles at him which explains how she makes him terrified but also at ease.
Moreover, the fact that a pleasant dream of this woman laughing becomes so frightening in his waking state is another example that shows ambivalent meaning . Finally, the last example of ambivalence is that he himself is ambivalent as he sometimes is in terror and some other times is relaxed and no longer terrified. Most of these of feelings of terror are usually hard to be described. So, to explain them more, the main character compares his terror when lying supine at night thinking about death to the screams of the theater’s audience when the lights go off , because the terror he feels is not only induced by the disability to recognize himself or others but also by the thoughts of death that haunt him at night which might give another major theme of life and death. In addition, it seems that his explanation of terror through this comparison is because he as sociates the screams of the audience of which his beloved woman has been once scared with the thoughts of death for she is dead now.
So, they both scare him and remind him of death. From this, we assume that this comparison implies ambiguity as the screams in the dark and the thoughts of death both demonstrate feelings of terror. Another comparison that depicts ambiguity is the comparison this main character makes to compare himsel f to a man who is having a heart attack and whose only concern is to breathe, but for the narrator, his only concern is not to go crazy. It has an ambiguous meaning as both men feelings express a condition of struggle and helplessness. This concern of not ge tting mad will later subside when his most beloved woman dies, her death would save him from insanity giving him human emotions of grief which would stop him from being terrified by other thoughts but only thinking of he death.
But later, as time begins to pass by and memories of her start to fade away and disappear from his mind , the narrator, again, compares this disappearance of memories to the way lights go out one by one in the house rooms at night as if comparing his brain to a house and his memories to the rooms which can be seen as a form of ambiguity as well. Finally, the last and most obvious ambiguity in the story is that of the identity of the ‘she’ he always talks about. For instance, we do not understand who this female character really is when the narrator says ‘I had a girl ‘, does he mean a daughter ? Or probably a girlfriend or wife? Or when he says ‘no wonder lunatics don’t recognize relatives’, does he again mean that she is a sister? Or perhaps his mother?. Also, at other times, he refers to her as a mistress or maiden. Moreover, his saying that ‘I know that many people would not u nderstand our relationship’ hints at the fact that we, as well, will not be able to understand it and that her identity is ambitious to everybody.
Going back to the main theme, terror, this state of fear in which the narrator is living, is causing him slee pless nights and he knows that well for when the night comes he always becomes frightened and wants to control his fear by whistling and humming but the slightest noise behind him would make him tremble in panic. From this, it is obvious that the night and darkness are associated with fear and terror, whereas the day time or morning is simply the time when everything is clear and true which shows a paradox of clarity and easiness versus vagueness and terror. Yet later, because of having trouble sleeping at night, the main character’s morning becomes also full of dread as he tries, in vain, to recognize his surroundings while going for a strol l terrified by the world and it’s absurdity and hoping to reconstruct its notion as he knows it and to get things clearer the same way he has done many mornings before. But instead, everything becomes more absurd and unclear leaving him as just an eye movi ng and glancing rather than a man.
So, it is paradoxical the morning which is a time of easiness has become a time of terror similar to that of the night or in other words, the morning is now the night. Furthermore, during his stroll, he detaches himself and his existence from the world and its elements observing them from an outside angle and perceiving them as just somethings without meanings, functions and relations to the human life. Certainly, this gives the idea that he is in the wor ld but out of it for he is one of its components but still separated from it which depicts the paradox of connectedness and disconnectedness . Moreover, this idea draws the attention back to when this main character or narrator endeavours to recognize the r eflection on the mirror as his own while feeling a s another person. So, this shows that even if he is unable to mentally recognize himself, he is still himself physically or in other words, being him and not him at the same time which indicates a paradoxical connotation . Lastly , his continuous questioning of existence and mortality highlight s paradox of life and death as well.
Coming to the end of the story, the terror he regularly feels, throughout the whole story, suddenly disappear s when he hears the news about the death of the woman who means the most to him. As a result, we notice that most of the times he is no longer in panic , is the times when somebody or something comforts him or shakes him out of his trance. For instance, it is at the times when he turns over in bed and think of different matters than death, when the man at the hotel thrusts the telegram into his hands and, as already mentioned above, the time when he receives the news about the woman’s death. In addition, after her death he feels at risk of terror and is worried that the next time he gets into this terror trance , he will not be rescued.
This means that he finally admits that she has been a source of only happiness and safety and not terror which clarifies that this latter is only produced by his mind and not by an external other. To sum up, the story conveys its meanings more explicitly through the clever use of paradox, ambiguity and ambivalence which makes the reader more engaged with the events and increasingly interested in what the story has yet to offer. These paradoxical, ambiguous and ambivalent connotations that are represented in different descriptions, co mparisons and implications, are embodied in the story’s events narrated by the main character who is experiencing a continuous terror due to his struggle to identify himself, his surroundings and more particularly the woman, which causes him to be physical ly and mentally devastated.
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