Themes

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 207

Madness, superstition, and magic are mixed together in "The Shout." Charles Crossley is either a deluded madman who thinks he has magical powers or is a "devil" who can kill by shouting. The tale is an uncertain one because Crossley tells it; it is either a lunatic's fantasy or a...

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Madness, superstition, and magic are mixed together in "The Shout." Charles Crossley is either a deluded madman who thinks he has magical powers or is a "devil" who can kill by shouting. The tale is an uncertain one because Crossley tells it; it is either a lunatic's fantasy or a chilling account of a battle between souls.

Dreams play an important role in "The Shout," which is itself dreamlike because it wanders in and out of everyday reality and even changes events the way a dream might. For instance, Crossley's powers seem frightening when he commands Rachel to sleep with him, yet later she says she heard no such command. Both Rachel and Richard first meet Crossley in their dreams, and the whole story may be an extension of their dreams. For instance, early on, Rachel remarks that "when I am asleep I become, perhaps, a stone with all the natural appetites and convictions of a stone." Later, "Richard went again to the sand hills, to the heap of stones, and identified the souls of the doctor and the rector." This may be no more than a fantasy evolved out of Rachel's account of her dream, or it could be as real as Crossley says it is.

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Characters