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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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