The passage evokes feelings of sympathy by providing details about the man’s feelings and thoughts. A scene in which the passage evokes feeling is when the man is out for a walk and he unexpectedly comes upon the snake in middle of the path. The speaker’s first instinct “was to let him [the snake] go on his way,” and he would go his. This scene serves to vindicate the man from the notion that he went looking for a snake to kill as a hunter would. The passage goes on describe the indecision of the man about whether he should let the snake go or kill it. The man finally decides that “there were children, …men and women lightly shod at the ranch …[and his duty] was to kill the snake.” Description of the man’s indecision coaxes the reader to look upon the man with more sympathy because he had made the decision only because he felt it was his duty; if it weren’t for his sense of duty, he might have let the snake go. The passage also arouses sympathy for the man by describing his regrets after he kills the snake. The man buries “him near the close guardianship of the bush. Then for a moment [he] could see him as [he] might have let him go.” The man’s regret arouses pity in the reader’s heart since his genuine regret questions his decision by demanding whether a precious life or one’s duty is more important.Another way the passage works to rouse sympathy for the man and the snake is through the description of the snake with heroic and humanly qualities. One way the passage describes the snake is by depicting its dignity. When the man approached the rattler, it “felt no necessity of getting out of anybody’s path.” This dignity of the snake serves for the reader to regard the snake with some admiration for its composure and elevates the moral position of the snake to that of the man. The passage also describes the calmness and peaceable attitude of the snake. When the man approached it and regarded the snake thoughtfully, the rattler “held his ground in calm watchfulness” and waited for the man to show his intentions. This detail about the personality of the snake establishes that the snake did not begin the conflict (which followed) and that it had character enough to give the man a chance go to away. The snake, even when provoked, did its best to avoid a conflict between itself and the man. When the snake “saw the hoe…he shot into a dense bush and set up his rattling.” The snake avoiding conflict by running off and warning the man gives the reader the impression that the snake desires not to have any conflict between itself and the man.
The passage also uses the details about the setting to arouse the reader’s sympathies for the man as well as the snake. The first is when the man was taking a walk “after sunset…[when the] Light was thinning; [and] the scrub’s savory odors were sweet.” The description of the setting as one when many people take a walk helps establish that the man didn’t for hunting for snakes to kill but accidentally comes upon it. His innocent-ness is proved when he claims that he derives no satisfaction from the sport of taking lives. Use of setting to arouse the reader’s pity also occurs when the passage describes the man as he gazes in to the horizon and “for a moment could see him [the snake] as [he] might have let him go…in departure over the twilit sands.” The man’s vision invites the reader’s to extend their sympathies to him because he regrets killing the snake and wishes that he could see it again gliding over the “twilit sands.”
The passage effectively uses language and details concerning the man, the snake, and the setting to “invite” the reader to feel sympathetic toward the snake, as well as the man, although he did kill the snake. The passage also uses language and details to discreetly free the man from the reader’s outraged conscience for hard-heartedly killing the snake. Thus, by making practical use of details the passage manages to have the reader regard the regretful man more warmly and mourn for the snake’s death.