The narrator begins the story by establishing the setting, introducing some of the major characters, providing the plot, and setting the mood of the story. As the narrator explains, the incident that the narrator recounts took place on the night of November \(17\), \(1915\). Given that the book My Life and Hard Times is credited as an autobiography and that James Thurber was born in \(1894\), it is safe to assume that the narrator was about \(21\) yrs old at the time of the incident. Also, the year \(1915\) has a historical reference; it is the period of World War I.
World War I was an international war that lasted from July \(28\), \(1914\), until November \(11\), \(1918\). It was one of the worst conflicts in the history of the human race. Statistics show that over \(9\) million people were killed in the warfare, while over \(5\) million died due to military occupation, bombings, disease, or hunger. The Ottoman genocides and the \(1918\) Spanish flu pandemic, which was spread by the movement of troops during the war, resulted in the deaths of many more millions worldwide. Hence, it could be understood that the war must have led to massive paranoia and delusions in people. This could also have been the reason for the narrator and his family reacting to the incident in a particular way.
It is evident from the firstparagraph that the story that the narrator was about to narrate consists of some strange events. To begin with, it is a ghost that is at the centre of the entire incident. The narrator claims that the ghost that entered his house on November \(17\), \(1915\), caused such a series of misunderstandings.
The paragraph suggests that the narrator was the one who had spotted the so-called ghost. It is also apparent that the narrator had alerted his family about its presence but eventually regretted having done so, for he says, "I am sorry I didn’t just let it keep on walking, and go to bed."
The narrator also further explains why he feels so; he says that the news of a potential ghost prompted his mother to throw a shoe through a window of the house next door. The paragraph also suggests that the police was involved. And to make things worse, the entire incident subsequently resulted in his grandfather shooting a police officer.
Finally, the narrator ends the paragraph by apologising (again) for the events that had unfolded and paying attention to "the footsteps" in particular. The last line of the paragraph hints that the footsteps that the narrator had heard and the ghost that had supposedly got into his house are linked.
Talking about the footsteps, the narrator said he heard them about 1.15 am, the quietest, darkest time of the night. He felt someone (or something) strolling around the dining room table "in a rhythmic, quickcadenced" manner. Here, one could observe that the narrator was trying to describe the footsteps that he had heard. He doesn't have a face to associate it with as he never saw who walked around. Nevertheless, his description of the sound is acute. He says that the footsteps were quick and had a rhythm to them. Note that the word cadence refers to the modulation of a sound, which describes its regular rise and fall. The description of the footsteps could suggest either of the following two possibilities (or even both). Firstly, the owner of the footsteps was walking around the dining room multiple times. Had he had walked around only once, it wouldn't have created so much of a "cadence". Secondly, there is a possibility that the owner was probably old, limp, or weak. For instance, when a person limps, the footsteps are likelier to rise and fall.
- his mother was asleep in a room upstairs,
- his brother-Herman was settled down for the night in another room,
- and his grandfather was sleeping in the attic, in the ancient walnut bed that had once fallen on his father.
So, coming back to the story, we see the narrator stepping out of his bath while his family is seeping. He was busy drying himself with a towel when he heard the footsteps. The narrator could hear the person walking quickly around the dining room downstairs. The dining room downstairs was reasonably visible from where he stood because the light from the bathroom shone down the back-steps. He could see the faint shine of plates on the plate-rail, but the table was hidden from the sight. He realised the footsteps were going around the table (multiple times) because he heard a particular floorboard creak at regular intervals.
Initially, the narrator didn't make much of the footsteps. He merely assumed that his father and brother Roy had returned from their trip to Indianapolis. (Note: Indianapolis is the capital city of Indiana. The narrator and his family live in Columbus, the capital city of the neighbouring state Ohio.) But later, something must have told him that it was neither of them. So he suspected that there was a break-in and that the footsteps belonged to a burglar. But his assumptions never ended there, for he ends the paragraph by claiming that he eventually realised it wasn’t a burglar but a ghost.