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

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jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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."