Questions, Elipses, and Other Techniques in Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonsong"

Questions, Elipses, and Other Techniques in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong

Jill Javier '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

In Dragonsong, Menolly decides to leave the hold early in the morning. She soon realizes that she isn't planning to return and goes through scattered thoughts in her head.

That was when she realized that she didn't plan to return to the Hold. And the sheer audacity of that thought was enough to make her halt in her tracks. Not return to the Hold? Not go back to the endless round of tedious tasks? Of gutting, smoking, salting, pickling fish? Mending nets, sails, clothes? Cleaning dishes, clothes, rooms? Gathering greens, berries, grasses, spider claws? Not return to tend old uncles and aunts, fires, pots, looms, glow baskets? To be able to sing or shout or roar or play if she so chose? To sleepÉah, now where would she sleep? And where would she go when there was Thread in the skies?

Menolly trudged on more slowly up the sand dunes; her mind churning with these revolutionary ideas. Why, everyone had to return to the Hold at night! The Hold, any hold or cot or weyr. Seven Turns had Thread been dropping from the skies, and no one traveled far from shelter. She remembered vaguely from her childhood that there used to be caravans of traders coming through the marshlands in the spring and the summer and early fall. There'd been gay times, with lots of singing and feasting. The Hold doors had not been barred then. She sighed, those had been happier times. . . the good old days that Old Uncle and the aunties were always droning on about. But once Thread started falling, everything had changed . . . for the worse . . . at least that was the overall impression she had from the adults in the Hold.

Some stillness in the air, some vague unease caused Menolly to glance about her apprehensively. There was certainly no one else about at this early hour. She scanned the skies. The mist banking the coast was rapidly dispersing. She could see it retreating across the water to the north and west. Toward the east the sky was brilliant with sunrise, except for what were probably some traces of early morning fog in the northeast. Yet something disturbed Menolly. She felt she should know what it was. [Pages 71-72]


1. Menolly's awareness of not planning to return to the Hold is described in a series of questions. Why does McCaffrey decide to present it that way?

2. Menolly has recollections of her childhood. How do the descriptions of her recollections help develop the importance of her leaving the hold?

3. In the middle of the second paragraph, McCaffrey uses ellipses. What is their significance?

4. Why does McCaffrey choose to describe the environment around Menolly, and how does it relate to her state of mind at that moment?

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Last modified 2 February 2004