A Sunrise on the Veld: Figures of Speech

In the short story A Sunrise on the Veld, author Doris Lessing uses several figures of speech, often as a way to convey morals to the reader. Upon reading the story, I found that the most in depth figures were the use of irony, paradox, and symbolism. As the story progresses, the boy shows hubris in believing he can control everything, both his own mind and body as well as the world around him, especially in saying “I contain the world.” This becomes ironic later on in the story when he is standing indecisive before the dying buck, he had earlier boasted that he could change or control everything, and now he didn’t do anything. Only after the buck had been killed had he been bothered by it, this was also after realizing that the animal’s broken leg was his fault. This creates a unique moment of reflection for him, he faintly remembered taking the blind shot, and now was disturbed by what he had failed to do, which is not something we don’t often acknowledge. The author uses these sequences as a way for people to know that they must not be full of themselves, as people will always have faults. With these errors comes an aftermath of either greater dissatisfaction with oneself and a longer period of regret or refusing to admit anything wrong at all. When you live with humility, failures can be corrected through repentance and a new course of action rather than just meditating on what was done wrong and not changing. Being truly sorry means righting your wrongs.

Doris Lessing creates a paradox in which it is left to interpret what is good and what is evil in terms of warmth and cold. In the beginning, the boy boasts about always being able to defeat without effort the weakness of staying in bed, which is to remain in luxury and warmth. He escapes this as soon as he can every morning. Later on however, he passes through the dark tunnel of foliage, which is both literally and figuratively a tunnel with light at the end. The “light” he is greeted by, is the faint silvery rain, which he hardly acknowledges at all other than seeing it as uncomfortable for him. This rain symbolizes when a priest uses anĀ aspergillum to sprinkle holy water on the congregation of a church. How often do we see the deeper meaning rather than just seeing cold water being sprinkled on us? Clearly the boy just disregards the water and is unchanged, he only begins to shiver, which is to tense up and be less open, acting only with hostility towards the water and cold.

The author also uses a synecdoche when the boy “crept past the dangerous window” the window itself is not the danger, but this sequence shows that every day when he’s up early it is in secrecy. Near the end of the story, there is one more paradox, and it is constructed when the boy says, “Yes, yes. That is what living is.” as the buck is swarmed by ants. The boy says that living is a means to an end, but fails to acknowledge what the end is other than death. He had earlier said that a child would not understand what eternity meant, but now he doesn’t either. He can’t see that living is to achieve spiritual life after the body dies, but in his hubris, he claims to control everything and thus is blinded.

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