When the police arrive to the scene, how does Thurber use hyperbole?

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In James Thurber's short story, "The Night the Ghost Got In," two young brothers think that they hear footsteps from the first floor of their family's house at about 1:15 in the morning.  The narrator, who apparently is Thurber himself, at first concludes that the footsteps belong to a burglar, but later he decides that they must be from a ghost.

The boys' mother calls the police.  When the police arrive, the author begins to use one of his favorite techniques: humorous hyperbole. In other words, he exaggerates in order to create a humorous situation. 

*Rather than simply turning on the house's lights, the police use flashlights to examine the situation:

Their lights played all over the living room and crisscrossed nervously in the dining room, stabbed into hallways, shot up the front stairs and finally up the back. 

*The narrator has just stepped out of the bathtub when he first hears the footsteps.   By the time the police come, he is wearing a pair of pants on the bottom and a bath towel on top, not exactly an outfit for a burglar.  Still, the police treat him like a suspect:

“Who are you?” he demanded....

I went to my room and pulled on some trousers. On my way out, a cop stuck a gun into my ribs. “Whatta you doin’ here?” he demanded. 

*When "a creaking in the attic" is heard, "Five or six cops sprang for the attic door"--obviously more officers than would respond to a simple burglary call. 

*The noise from the attic is neither from a burglar or ghost; rather, it is from Grandfather, a Civil War veteran who often imagines that the war is still in progress.  Grandfather grabs an officer's gun and releases a shot.  In Thurber's world of hyperbole, it is quite a shot:

The report seemed to crack the rafters; smoke filled the attic.

All of this hyperbole helps to create a hectic, out-of-control scene that the author refers to as, "a hullabaloo of misunderstanding."


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