Purple Sage: Chapter XIII (part two)

Chapter XIII: Solitude and Storm (part two)

Then the storm burst with a succession of ropes and streaks and shafts of lightning, playing continuously, filling the valley with a broken radiance; and the cracking shots followed each other swiftly till the echoes blended in one fearful, deafening crash.

Venters looked out upon the beautiful valley — beautiful now as never before — mystic in its transparent, luminous gloom, weird in the quivering, golden haze of lightning. The dark spruces were tipped with glimmering lights; the aspens bent low in the winds, as waves in a tempest at sea; the forest of oaks tossed wildly and shone with gleams of fire. Across the valley the huge cavern of the cliff-dwellers yawned in the glare, every little black window as clear as at noonday; but the night and the storm added to their tragedy. Flung arching to the black clouds, the great stone bridge seemed to bear the brunt of the storm. It caught the full fury of the rushing wind. It lifted its noble crown to meet the lightnings. Venters thought of the eagles and their lofty nest in a niche under the arch. A driving pall of rain, black as the clouds, came sweeping on to obscure the bridge and the gleaming walls and the shining valley. The lightning played incessantly, streaking down through opaque darkness of rain. The roar of the wind, with its strange knell and the re-crashing echoes, mingled with the roar of the flooding rain, and all seemingly were deadened and drowned in a world of sound.

In the dimming pale light Venters looked down upon the girl. She had sunk into his arms, upon his breast, burying her face. She clung to him. He felt the softness of her, and the warmth, and the quick heave of her breast. He saw the dark, slender, graceful outline of her form. A woman lay in his arms! And he held her closer. He who had been alone in the sad, silent watches of the night was not now and never must be again alone. He who had yearned for the touch of a hand felt the long tremble and the heart-beat of a woman. By what strange chance had she come to love him! By what change — by what marvel had she grown into a treasure!

No more did he listen to the rush and roar of the thunder-storm. For with the touch of clinging hands and the throbbing bosom he grew conscious of an inward storm — the tingling of new chords of thought, strange music of unheard, joyous bells sad dreams dawning to wakeful delight, dissolving doubt, resurging hope, force, fire, and freedom, unutterable sweetness of desire. A storm in his breast — a storm of real love.

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3 Responses to “Purple Sage: Chapter XIII (part two)”

  1. Derek Says:

    The scene depicted here is focus almost exclusively on the sublime. The storm surrounds everything with it’s darkness. The only aspects of beautiful are that of the windows and the lighting. The beautiful in this case is used to highlight the sublimed and give it depth. The rain fall is said to be as dark as the black clouds, with the roar of the winds blowing through the trees. The eagles are used to add to the height of the scenery and remind us of the storm cloud ceiling that suggest great heights. This is a vast storm glorifying the strongest aspects of the sublime. The mixing of sublime and beautiful works really well and shows how American scenery really is superior to European, landscape, in how this mixture can happen. The scenery really does suggest a masculine strength, which helps to emphasize the strength of the feelings Venter, is having for Bess. Bess is much like the lightning in the storm, the light embraced by the dark clouds around her. This play between gender roles both suggest a wild romance and physical passions. Zane Grays ability to blend so many ideas and images together, shown and suggested, is truly impressive.

  2. Ross Martikke Says:

    The interplay between Bess and Venters is inspired by the incredible scene of the sublime before them. The natural world around them has brought them together through the innate fear inspired by the mighty scenery and roaring storm. It is interesting that while the world has become completely sublime, the characters affected by it have entered into a beautiful mindstate- coming together passionately, despite Venters being a male, contrary to regular gender roles. Grey does an excellent job marrying these two concepts in the scenery and the characters, displaying both prominently. Also, as we discussed in class, his sexless novel about sex is displayed well in the fact that the man and woman come together but don’t consumate their love sexually.

  3. Gordon Says:

    The storm truly is an element of the sublime. The descriptions which instill fear in the reader would be those that alluded to death or power such as the “fury of the rushing wind” or, more subtly, the “driving pall of rain.” The sexual elements that are truly of the sublime or of masculinity: the “shafts of lightning,” or the allusion to trees bending spruces and oaks. However, I think more than through the masculine imagery, the human quality of the nature comes in its overall personification. Action is given where no action is, literally speaking. Such is the case of the bridge: “Flung arching to the black clouds, the great stone bridge seemed to bear the brunt of the storm.” Eventually the passage turns to the more personal scene between Venters and Bess where the connection is quite sensual and true, and the distinction between gender roles becomes blurred. The reference of breast on both the part of Venters and Bess is some evidence of this. Grey then goes on in a vein more revealing to the beautiful element, describing the form of Bess as “dark, slender, graceful.”


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