Description and Characterization in Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonsong"

Description and Characterization in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong

Devorah West '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

Menolly, a girl growing up in a family surrounded by a strong sense of tradition, has been given the task to collect spiderclaws as well as look for high water marks in coves. Despite her wonderful musical talent, her father has forbidden her playing because he believes that harpers should be male as they have been traditionally. In this passage, in an attempt to find solitude and time alone, Menolly uses her long legs to run ahead of the other spiderclaw hunters. The passage provides a sense of the land and life of Pern and Half-Circle Sea Hold as well as a feeling for Menolly's sensitive and caring, yet rebellious character.

She slowed, turning her face into the cool breeze blowing offshore, inhaling deeply of its freshness and sea odors. She was somewhat surprised to see how far she had comedown the coast. The Dragon Stones were visible in the clear air, and it was only then that she recalled the little queen. Unfortunately, she also remembered the tune she'd made up that day: the last day, Menolly now realized, of her trusting childhood.

. . . . A movement above, a sudden blotting of the sun, made her gaze upward. A sweep rider. Knowing perfectly well that he couldn't see her, she waved vigorously anyhow, watching the graceful glide as the pair dwindled into the distance. Sella told her one evening when they were preparing for bed that Elgion had flown on dragons several times. Sella had given a quiver of delighted terror, vowing that she wouldn't have to courage to ride a dragon. [54]


1. What effect does McCaffrey create when she so closely brings together people like those on earth, and puts them against the backdrop of Pern and its very different wildlife, such as dragons and fire lizards?

2. Is there perhaps a connection between the timing of Menolly's coming of age and the rescuing and birth of the fire lizards?

3. What is the significance of the moment with the little queen when Menolly comes of age? What is the significance in the moment when she realizes that she is no longer a child?

4. How does McCaffrey engage the reader into the life and world of Pern?

5. What purpose do the poems at the beginning of each chapter serve? Why has McCaffrey included them into her story?

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Last modified 2 February 2004