“The Swan” by Roald Dahl 

(Spoiler Alert)

Ernie and Raymond are best friends. They are

both described as large for their age, but their

physical similarities stop there. The author

describes them as, “But while Ernie was

heavy and loutish, Raymond was tall, slim,

and muscular.” They are both very violent

people, and often go around hurting people.

Ernie tends to be very impulsive, and if

someone says something that he does not

like, he will automatically think to hurt them.

Raymond is less impulsive, and more calm

than Ernie. He sometimes reins Ernie in when

he thinks he is going too far. For example, “He

saw the flush coming to Ernie’s cheeks, and

there was a dangerous little spark dancing in

his small black eyes. Luckily, at that very

moment, Raymond saved the situation. “Hey!

Lookit that bird swimmin’ in the reeds over

there!” he shouted, pointing. “Let’s ‘ave ‘im!”

Raymond distracts Ernie when he is

provoked, out of fear that Ernie will go too far.

Two aspects of Peter’s personality are revealed when

he is strapped to the train tracks and starts to

daydream about cloud shapes. These are detachment

and intuitive wisdom. He shows detachment when he

is able to take his mind off of the terrifying

circumstances. “And to keep his mind off the thing

that was going to happen soon, he played a game

that his father had taught him long ago on a hot

summer’s day when they were lying on their backs in

the grass above the cliffs at Beachy Head.” Peter

knows that he is very scared, so he tries to keep his

mind off of the situation. Peter shows intuitive wisdom

not only by knowing what to think about when he is

about to get run over by a train, but also not letting

Ernie and Reynold, his tormentors, get the

satisfaction of seeing him scared. “‘How’re you doin’,

ratface?’ one of them called out to him from the

bushes above. ‘What’s it like, waitin’ for the

execution?’ He decided not to answer.”

Near the end of the story, Dahl mentions that there

are two types of people. “Some people, when they

have taken too much and have been driven beyond

the point of endurance, simply crumple and give up.

There are others, though they are not many, who will

for some reason always be unconquerable.You meet

them in time of war and also in time of peace. They

have an indomitable spirit and nothing, neither pain

nor torture nor threat of death, will cause them to give

up.” Peter is the second type of person. He has put up

with hardship and torture by Ernie and Reynold in this

story, such as being tied to the railroad tracks, having

swan wings tied to his back , and being shot in the

leg, but he never gives in. At the end of the story,

when he is falling from the tree and nearly dies, he

turns into a swan, as the title of the story suggests.

He looked up and he saw a light shining over the

waters of the lake that was of such brilliance and

beauty that he was unable to look away. The light was

beckoning him, drawing him on, and he dove toward

the light and spread his wings.”

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