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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

THE GRANDFATHER: It seems to me that his scythe makes as much noise . . .

THE DAUGHTER: He is moving near the house.

A central theme in the play is death and its ever-ominous approach. Death is the intruder described throughout the story. The grandfather can hear death approaching and he fears most for the life of his sick daughter. The grandfather is the only one who heard the approach of the Grim Reaper. Due to the fact that he is blind, the other characters question the truth of his claims.

THE DAUGHTER: Yes, father; it is moonlight, and I can see the avenue as far as the cypress wood.

THE GRANDFATHER: And you do not see anyone?

THE DAUGHTER: No one, grandfather.

THE UNCLE: What sort of night is it?

THE DAUGHTER: Very fine. Do you hear the nightingales?

THE UNCLE: Yes, yes.

THE DAUGHTER: A little wind is rising in the avenue.

THE GRANDFATHER: A little wind in the avenue?

THE DAUGHTER: Yes; the trees are trembling a little.

This quote highlights some of the imagery used in the play. The grandfather often asks Ursula to describe the things she sees to him. He will ask her follow-up questions to gain a better understanding of their surroundings. Often his sense of the environment through sound and gut instinct does not align with what she describes.

THE GRANDFATHER: I do not look at these things as you others do.

THE UNCLE: You ought to rely on us, then, who can see. She looked very well this afternoon. She is sleeping quietly now; and we are not going to spoil, without any reason, the first comfortable evening that luck has thrown in our way. . . . It seems to me we have a perfect right to be easy, and even to laugh a little, this evening, without apprehension.

This quote highlights the many disagreements the family has throughout the night. The blind grandfather is commenting here not on his sight, but on how he disagrees with the carelessness of the other family members. The uncle and father were told by a doctor to not worry about her health and choose to put their anxiety at ease. However, the grandfather senses that something is instinctually wrong. He becomes frustrated with the family’s refusal to listen to him.

THE GRANDFATHER: There are moments when I am less blind than you, you know!

The grandfather may be unable to see as his relatives can, but he has a sense of danger that the others do not. In this quote, he is expressing that he has knowledge and intuition beyond the physical world. 

THE FATHER: Listen to the child!

THE UNCLE: He has never cried before!

This highlights the complimentary moment of life and death in the play. The mother passes away just as the newborn baby cries out. Like many other moments in the play, light is paired with darkness. The play ends with this balance. One life is taken while another life begins.

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Critical Essays