Person's Life Is Worth in Nature in The Rattler

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The conflict between man and nature dates back to the beginning of time, when Satan in the form of a snake tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “The Rattler” tells the story of a man torn between his morals and sense of duty. He eventually decides to obey his sense of duty, and kills in a fateful encounter with a rattlesnake. The author wrote in first person narrative, which allowed the reader to actively engage as the story progresses. In the short story “The Rattler,” the author employs sensory details and expressive diction to describe a regretful encounter between man and nature, and that duty can be accompanied by the agonizing sacrifice of morals.

The snake initially appears harmless, its head as “not drawn back to strike,” which made the narrator’s first instinct to be “to let him go his way” and the narrator would go his. By describing the snake in this way, the narrator feels that the snake may not have ill intention, and is merely intrigued by the narrator. As the narrator’s first thought is to let the snake go, it clears the man of any notion that he had been searching for a prey to kill, like a hunter would do. As the passage progresses, the narrator’s inner turmoil continues, and he thinks that “sport in taking life is a satisfaction [he] can’t feel”; however, after reflecting he feels that it “his duty, plainly, was to kill the snake.” The narrator expresses his conflicted feelings on killing the snake, as killing it would go against his personal moral values. A description of his internal conflict prompts the audience to feel sympathetic towards him, and to understand that he is regretful.

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The narrator regards the snake in a respectable and noble manner, and treats him as an equal as he calls the snake “him” when referring to the snake. He realizes that the snake isn’t a brainless animal, but an intelligent being with a noble air. The description of the snake serves to create an image of a calm, knight-like figure that is confident in its place in nature. Respect for the snake stems from his fair attitude, as he “sportingly” warns the narrator that the snake is able to kill and would do so if threatened; however, the narrator understands that the snake is only doing so in self-defense as he has made an unprovoked attack, which is why he remains uncertain of whether to kill the snake. The snake’s intelligence is evident to the narrator as he notes when the snake notices that he brought a hoe, and once again reminds the audience that the narrator is torn in his decision to kill.

In contrast to hunters who feel proud of their kill, the narrator feels no pride in him killing the snake. As he looks upon the corpse of the snake, he feels that it “was all a nasty sight, pitiful now.” As the narrator thinks earlier in the passage, taking a life does not bring any pleasure or satisfaction to him; rather, he would have gladly let the snake live. He sees the snake as a living being, not just as a conquest to kill, shown as he does “not cut off the rattles for a trophy.” Had the narrator been a hunter who cared about showing off his game, he wouldn’t have hesitated in his decision to kill. After he killed the snake, the narrator feels sickened that he has committed a heinous act, and felt remorseful. The description of his feelings at the end evokes sympathy in the reader and prompts them to understand why the narrator felt that he had to commit the act.

Until the end, the man struggled in his decision to kill a living being, and felt regretful in the result of the encounter. He felt that the snake was a live, intelligent being that deserved to live, but his sense of duty told him that killing the snake was in order to protect the people at the ranch. This conflict between nature and man exemplified the idea that the author conveys to the reader, that following your duty has the potential to come with a sacrifice of your personal moral values.

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