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Proving Up

“And like a quagmire the terror won’t release me, because the man is speaking in the voice of my own father, and every sodbuster in the Hox River Settlement – a voice that can live for eons on dust and thimblefuls of water, that can be plowed under, hailed out, and go on whispering madly forever about spring, about tomorrow, a voice of a hope beyond the reach of reason or exhaustion (oh, Ma, that’s going to be my voice soon) – a voice that will never let us quit the land.” (109-110)

Russell left the identity of of the man Miles meets on page 103 ambiguous. This is a conscious, stylistic choice, resulting in the man having an altogether inhuman quality. This quality is enhanced by his eyes being described as “bottomless” (111). This effect leads me to perceive the man as a personification of death. Both when he appeared to Miles and when he appeared to Mrs. Sticksel, he was perceived as someone the observer was waiting for, the Inspector and Miles, symbolizing how we all are endlessly waiting for death. When he speaks, his syntax reminds Miles of the familiar voice of his father which could symbolize how, to some, death can seem familiar when they are surrounded by it everyday as Miles is with the deaths of his sisters and the death and disappearance of other settlers.

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