Analysis of Robert Graves’ Story the Shout

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Robert Graves’ story The Shout represents as a part of the book Collected Short Stories, which was written in 1924. This is the story in which reality and unreality are closely interwoven. Even though, this story gives a reader the creeps, it makes to think about very important things as love, soul and fear of death. The Shout is the story within frames of the story. That is, the narrator retells a story he heard from Crossley in the Asylum at a cricket match. We do not know who is the narrator; therefore, we percept the narrator as the author’s “second self”.

Thus we should believe the narrator and see the story about Crossley from his point of view. From the narrator we get know that his interlocutor, Crossley, is insane and claims that his soul is split in pieces. In the beginning of his story Crossley points out that his “story is true, every word of it”; however, every time when he tells this story, he tells it in a new way. Crossely’s story tells us about the destructive impact of Charles – a man with magic power – on the relationship between Richard and Rachel – a happily married couple.

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After one night when Richard and Rachel have similar dreams, their life changes abruptly. Richard had a dream in which he had a conversation walking in the sand hills with a strange person about the whereabouts of the soul. Similarly, Rachel tells about her dream in which she saw Richard with the man walking in the sand hills. However, Rachel was afraid of the man and ran from them both. Discussing their dreams Richard says, “We not only live together and talk together and sleep together, but it seems we now even dream together”. As a result, very soon their dreams start to come true.

First of all, Richard meets a man called Charles. During the conversation with him Richard recognizes in his interlocutor a person from the dream. Moreover, in the sand hills Richard has a sense of “deja vu”. Likewise in the dream, Richard has a talk with Charles about whether “the soul is constantly resident in the body”. In addition, Charles claims that he can produce a shout so mind-blowing that no living creation can hear it at close range and survive. He says that had learned it from Australian aborigines and took eighteen years to perfect it, but used this terror shout only five times.

Richard is charmed by this amazing man, and invites the stranger home to dinner. In fact, it was the turning point in the story because after this moment Charles confidently comes in the Richard’s and Rachel’s life and destroys their marriage. The author uses variety of symbols and each reader interprets those differently. Concerning my impression from this story, I was affected from it deeply as because this story made me think about things that are expressed in it. The first thing that interested me in this story is that Rachel and Richard had the same dream at one night.

Immediately I have remembered an instance from my life. Such a strange thing happened with my sister and me once. We have dreamt the same dream at one night, but, thank God, it did not come to true. In the contrast with my life experience, the dream of the main characters is like a future prediction. Probably, this symbolic meaning of the dream Graves introduced in The Shout because, as I know, for some period of time he was very interested in Freudian ideas. Secondly, the story reflects an interest in whether or not the soul is bound to the body during every moment of life.

Charles disagrees with preacher’s premises that “the soul is continually resident in the body”. He asks Richard, “What duty did the soul perform in the daily routine task of the body? ” Further a strange notion came to Richard that “the souls of every man and woman and child in Lampton” are lying in the stones on the beach. In my opinion, it is one of the most important questions broached in this story. In my opinion, there is no more safe place in this world that our own body. No one can demolish or steal the soul which is bound with the body.

On the contrary, when the soul lies in any other place everything may happen with it. Moreover, how to explain the fact that during the clinical death many people feel like the soul is leaving the body, and they may have a look at themselves from the another side, or see the dead relatives, or see the wonderful and pleasant light. Even though this process cannot be clearly explained by medicine, with Graves’ explanation of the soul whereabouts these visions are impossible. Why did the author describe souls as the stones?

Rachel says that “there may be more sense in a stone, more sensibility, more sensitivity, more sensibleness, than in many men and women”. Probably Graves wanted to point out that such a sensible notion as human’s soul is becoming more rough and crueler. Nonetheless, human’s soul is becoming more vulnerable. Graves emphasizes it by the braking of the stone which holds Charles’ soul. Another instance of using symbols in this story is the horror shout which can be produced by Charles. As I understand, the main idea is that the shout is the synonym to death.

People are afraid of death; however, they always were interested in what happens after death and are tended to reveal mysteries. Similarly, Richard is afraid of the death; nevertheless, he insists on hearing the shout. Finally, Charles gives up: “As you wish, but I have warned you what a shout is”. As a saying goes “Forewarned is forearmed”. However, Richard did not think about the effect of the shout; whereas, it influenced not only him but Rachel as well. After that day Rachel admires Charles who makes everything for her and attracts her attention with every possible measures.

He helps her in household, and continually takes Richard’s part against Rachel’s scoffing. As far as after hearing the shout Richard become ill, Rachel is irritate of Richard’s weakness. Consequently, they become estranged from each other and formerly happy marriage collapses. The author emphasizes that every our action, every desicion has consequences, and we should be moderate in our wishes and passions. For me, it was strangely enough that Richard invites at home absolytely unknown man. However, further I undersood the reason of such a precipitate desicion.

Crossley, a man of ‘unusual force’, he posesses a magnificant power on the people; therefore, he so easy attracts people. For example, murders have the power which instantly alarms, but somehow people are mystyfied of it. Similarly, Charles has power of looking into the souls of people and it fascinates. But, in my opinion, Charles is the man who is dangerous to know. One more aspect that Graves points out in this story is the power of love. Was the feelings between Rachel and Richard a ‘true love’ at all?

Rachel had often fell in love with men since their marrige, andshe had ‘a habit to tell Richard when this happened, as he agreed to tell her when happened to him’. However, when Rachel understands that she likes Charles, she does not any word to Richard. Consequently, it leads to the break-up. Thus, their idea of the ‘open marriage’ did not give the appropriate effect. I know instances from the real life, when such outspokennes led to the permissivness and demolished the marriage. In my opinion, relationship between Rachel and Richard is more like habit, not the ‘true love’.

The last thing that is also covered with a mystery is that whether Crossley’s story was real or only delirium of the insane. From the one hand, in the narrator’s world Richard and Rachel know of Crossley only from a conjuring show that Crossley gave in the Asylum. From the other hand, Crossley gave the detailed description of Rachel and Richard, who are friends of the narrator. In addition, the author does not give a clear answer about was there the shout at all. If not, why the doctor dead crouched in a corner his hands to his ears? Was it because Crossley shouted?

There are so many questions and almost no answers. I suppose that the nature of the shout was not the aim of Robert Graves writing this story. He wanted pointed out something more important that is not so evident at a glance. He makes us to think about our soul, about how we live now. He invites to stop being consumers and think thoroughly about the consequences of our desire. Also he wants to make us see that there are some taboo things that are better not to know. And finally, he emphasizes the necessity of being attentive to our nearest and dearest, and necessity of appreciating what we poses.

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