The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart makes the reader see that Merlin is not just a magician, he is first and foremost a man. Throughout the book the author sucks the reader in to the life of this man, and using imagery and characterization makes him feel that he is actually there watching the life of Merlin unravel.
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From the very first page of The Crystal Cave the reader is transported into the book with the use of imagery; Mary Stewart almost forces him to connect with the characters and the surroundings of this book. “ With the coming of the dusk the rain stopped, but a mist had risen, creeping knee-high through the trees so that they stood like ghosts, and the grazing horse floated like a swan.”(The Crystal Cave pg. 2) Mary Stewart describes this scene so well that the reader can actually see the mist rising up the trees and into the forest. When describing the fight scenes where Ambrosius, Merlin’s father, is trying to gain the title of High King, she uses enough detail to get the point across, without making the scene gory and bloody as so many things are in today’s world. “Everywhere men were fighting in small groups, or even singly and hand to hand. The noise, the clash and shouting, even the smell of sweat and blood mingled…(Crystal Cave pg.373.) The reader can almost smell the sweat and blood mingling on the battlefield, like being there without the danger. In this novel Stewart also mixes together imagery and characterization when she is showing the reader what Merlin sees in the crystal cave when he first learns he has the “sight”. This is the beginning of the author’s trial to get the reader inside the brain of Merlin as he begins to use his power. “ Though the place was cold, the men worked naked save for loincloths, and the sweat ran over their backs as they hacked over the rock-face, steady ceaseless tapping blows that’s made no noise, but you could see the muscles clench and jar under the torch lit sweat.”(Crystal Cave pg 66) The reader is put inside of Merlin’s brain, seeing what he sees, what he thinks, and how he responds to the reaction of others toward him.
Throughout this novel Mary Stewart helps the reader connect with Merlin by characterization. She presents his actions, words, thoughts, and feelings as a way for the reader to see what is really going on behind the mask of this legendary magician. The visions that Merlin has are so clearly represented to the reader that he is inside Merlin’s head as they are going on.” The bull whirled, and charged again. The man waited without moving, his feet planted slightly apart, his posture casual, almost disdainful. As the bull reached him he seemed to sway aside, lightly, like a dancer. The bull went by him so close that I saw a horn spear the swirling cloak…(Crystal Cave pg.142) The reader begins to see the true power Merlin has, not that as a spell caster, but that of a prophet. Although Merlin has power, he is not arrogant, he lives day to day as a man. He thinks not himself better than most men, but equal. In the instance of his father Ambrious or his uncle Uther, Merlin treats them with respect telling them that whenever they needed him he would be there. In the light of his father’s death Merlin makes a vow to himself and others,” I will deck his grave with nothing less then the light itself.”(Crystal Cave pg. 442) The reader is shown here that Merlin had great respect for his father, and even though it was deemed impossible by others he made his vow become a reality. The way other reacted toward Merlin and his power is a big part of this story, throughout this novel the reader can see the changes of attitude toward Merlin as he grows. The young Merlin was thought of as a “bastard” because he had no father. “. Keep your bastard out of my sight! Now that your brother’s home, we’ll find a man that will take the pair of you from under my feet.”(Crystal Cave pg.7) Merlin is constantly ridiculed for what he had no control over, but he doesn’t care, he likes to be alone and in the darkness. As Merlin grows older the attitudes toward him change as he begins to use his power. People as a whole begin to pressure him to tell them their fortunes, futures, etc. Ambrosius is one of the many, “What do you see in the fire, Merlin the prophet?” “Nothing but dead men roasting.”” Then look and see something for me, Merlin. Where has Octa gone” (Crystal Cave pg.379) Merlin’s power does not come on command and few realize this fact, and so Merlin is constantly pushed to see into the future, though he cannot on will. The characterization of this character makes the reader realize Merlin is so much more than a man of power, he is a man with thoughts, and feelings also.
The legend of the great Merlin has been known through the ages by many, but what those stories do not share with us is that Merlin is more than a magician he is a man, also. Mary Stewart uses imagery and characterization to make the story come alive in the reader’s mind as if they are actually there with Merlin as he sees, thinks, and acts throughout this novel. The Crystal Cave is an exciting, riveting novel that will be remembered for years to come.
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