Cemetery Path

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‘Cemetery Path’ By Leonard Ross Essay

The story ‘Cemetery Path’ is about a timid little man who was constantly mocked by a young lieutenant by nicknames like ‘pigeon’ and ‘Ivan the terrible’. Ross uses this to show the reader the concept of mental fear and how fear can consume us and drive us down to serious consequences. Ross begins the story ‘Cemetery Path’ with the portrayal of Ivan as a scared and timid who is very afraid. Ivan’s strange behaviour, of not crossing the cemetery, not even in the ‘full light of the moon’ is mocked by others.

The adjective ‘familiar’ conveys how long and often the cruel villagers took their ‘mockery of Ivan’. The people of the saloon cruelly enjoyed the suffering of Ivan and his cowardly actions. We learn of Ivan’s timidity by the actions of him, a ‘mild protest’. Ross uses the adjective ‘mild’ to emphasize Ivan’s lack of resilience and ability to fight back. The verb ‘fed’ in the phrase ‘fed their taunts’ indicates Ivan’s protests were completely futile. We understand from these words that Ivan is very lonely and the villagers do not have any feelings of empathy towards Ivan.

Ross’s language choices and effective description of the characters tell us of how fear and serious timidity constricts peoples’ lives. Ross shows us how people can mock or bribe people like Ivan who is afraid and ignorant of their own fears, to unavoidable outcomes. Ross brings a figure of authority into the text to a fearful situation. Ross also uses the figure of authority to explain his ideas. The ‘young Cossack Lieutenant’ challenges Ivan with a tempting dare- if Ivan completes the challenge he receives ‘five gold roubles’ from the Lieutenant.

Here, Ross’s point is that how someone who has more power will easily make you obey and how they can make fun of you and bribe you into unpleasant results. Ivan surprisingly accepts the challenge. Although Ivan accepts the challenge, Ross makes the reader question Ivan’s answer: ‘perhaps it was the vodka’ and the sentence ‘perhaps it was the temptation of the five gold roubles’. Ivan is described again as a person who relies on alcohol, because of his low self-esteem and the humiliation he suffers. ‘Temptation of the five gold roubles’ explains Ivans’ greed and fondness he has towards money.

The evidence of Ivan being a very timid and unpopular person in his village is shown once again: ‘as the saloon echoed with the villagers’ derision and disbelief’. The people believe Ivans’ choice as a fraud and as an act. This shows us the reader that Ivan is not trusted and welcomes in the village. Ivan receives the sabre and he is required to ‘stick the sabre into the ground’ ‘in front of the biggest tomb ‘. Greed, ignorance and overconfidence are a dangerous combination that will provoke trouble. Ross succeeds in conveying how Ivan is bribed and teased and how misuse of authority forces Ivan into a fatal situation.

This shows that a person like Ivan who is afraid can be controlled by people who hold greater power. The story comes to an ending with Ross’s final and the most important idea conveyed to us clearly with his impressive description of the setting. The sentence ‘the cold was sharp as a butcher’s knife’ use the simile of ‘the cold’ being as ‘sharp as a butchers knife’ to emphasize the extreme cold Ivan was walking through. ‘Ivan strode to the cemetery gates, and hesitated, and pushed the gate open’, from this sentence Ross gives us the image of mental gradually building up inside Ivan; this is clearly noticeable in the verb ‘hesitated’.

Ivan knew for himself he was scared, but his greed kept him going. The short sentence, ‘he walked fast’, holds the reader’s attention on Ivan anxiety. He tells himself ‘Earth, it’s just earth’ to relieve himself, but the ‘darkness’ stopped him from weighing down his growing fear. Ross reminds us of the cold with the metaphor ‘the wind was savage’ and the simile ‘the sabre was like ice in his hands’ conveys us the image of Ivan straining his every nerve to complete the challenge. Ivan accomplishes the challenge, but he finds himself being pulled by an ‘unyielding, implacable hold’. Gasping in his panic’ and ‘shaken by fear’ is showing us the strength of mental fear. Ivan struggled to stand, ‘but he could not rise’, he failed to awake from his hallucination of fear. At the end, we only see of Ivan nothing more than a dead body ‘slain by a nameless horror’.

The author’s words, images and his vivid descriptions have worked to give the reader a powerful impression of the great strength of mental fear and how it builds up to a level where a life can be at a risk. ‘Never underestimate mental fear’; it’s what Ross shows us. Cemetery Path’ is a lesson and a precaution about the seriousness of mental fear and how greatly fear affects our lives. Furthermore, mental fear is stronger than physical fear because mental fear can build up to a stage where it can overtake your Actions and thoughts. ‘Cemetery Path’ shows us that greed and ignorance will trigger you to jump right into your fears. Ross’s idea is that if we are not aware of the fact mental fear can harm you, we won’t be able to avoid the peril of death.

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