Oberfest

                                                Oberfest

Through scenery of surpassing loveliness, we descend into the tranquil valley, and make our way to the ancient,  fortified town of Oberfest.  The origin of the old town is veiled in the poetic darkness of tradition.  For many centuries, it has ruled itself, and coined its own monies.  As one enters the square, the Town Hall is admirably brought before the eye.  It is the very embodiment of grandeur and sublimity: a colossal, many-towered, complex structure, aspiring toward heaven, with countless gables and spires, turrets, and gilded cupolas.  One is compelled to venerate the simple townsfolk whose stern virute and zeal have enabled them to oppose the incursions of those who would conquer, yet have made of their town a repository of all that is grand in antiquity, and ceaselessly striven to beautify and adorn, to elevate and refine. [. . .] Rising above the sunlit pinnacles of the Hall loom mountains of extraordinary steepness, and awesome, savage magnificence.  In winter, it is said, fearful avalanches roll down from these heights.

 

–"A Traveller in Europe" by G. Brown, with Numerous Wood Engravings by the Best Artists, 1871

 

On a morning in early spring, 1873, the people of Oberfest left their houses and took refuge in the town hall.  No one knows why, precisely.  A number of rumors had raced through the town during recent weeks, and there was a profound uneasiness among the people.  Idle talk and gossip were passed on and converted to news; predictions became certainties.  On this particular morning, fear turned to terror, and people rushed through the narrow streets, carrying their most precious possessions, pulling their children, and dashed into the great hall.  The first to arrive occupied the largest rooms; the others found space in smaller rooms, in hallways, on stairs, in the towers.  The doors were nailed shut, and men took turns watching out the windows.  Two days passed.  Order was maintained.  The unruly, the sick, and the unstable were consigned to the cellars; the cellar stairs were guarded.  When no disaster came, the fear grew worse, because the people began to suspect that the danger was already within the hall, locked inside.  No one spoke to anybody else; people watched each other, looking for signs.  It was the children who rang the great bell in the first bell tower–a small band of bored children, unable to bear the silence and having run through all the halls, slid down all the bannisters, climbed all the turrets.  They found the bell rope and swung on it–set the bell clanging.  This was the traditional signal of alarm, and in a moment the elders were dashing in panic to all the other bell towers and ringing the bells.  For nearly an hour, the valley reverberated with the wild clangor–and then, a thousand feet above, the snow began to crack, and the avalanche began; a massive cataract of ice and snow thundered down and buried the town, silencing the bells.  There is no trace of Oberfest today, not even a spire, because the snow is so deep; and, in the shadow of the mountains, it is very cold.

                                                                                                                –James Stevenson  1971–USA-

Assignment:  Read the two-part story above by James Stevenson.  Write an essay in which you discuss the important aspects of this story and then be sure to discuss these points in relation to other stories and essays about the short stories we have discussed this semester.  Please be sure to substantiate your claims with specific reference to the text(s).  Note its style (differences between the epigraph and the "story," its narrative effect, its mood, its effect, and its theme. 

                You will have the entire period to write your essay.  Be sure that your essay has a thesis, has development, and conclusion.  Take time at the end of the period to proofread your work.