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Dusk closed across the house, sweeping its long shadows over the plain, the horizon merging into the sky.

I cannot conceive what it looks like.

Are close and sweep used figuratively here? And are across and over used interchangeably here?

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    Prosaic paraphrasing: it got dark.
    – Hellion
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 16:09
  • I think "shadow" is referring to the cast shadow of the house.
    – user3214
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 16:13
  • 1
    Think of a house in the middle of a prairie, with nothing above waist level as far as the eye can see. Then imagine that the sun is setting: it's getting dark, the house's shadow is getting longer, and the sun will be out of sight soon.
    – Pockets
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 17:10
  • It's tough to get more obvious than that. @Hellion
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 0:56
  • It seems like a dark and stormy night is on the horizon...
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 9:27

1 Answer 1

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Dusk closed across the house, sweeping its long shadows over the plain, the horizon merging into the sky.

Are close and sweep used figuratively here?

No, close and sweep are not used figuratively. Rather Dusk has been personified and given the ability to "do" things, such as "close" and "sweep."

And are across and over used interchangeably here?

I am not sure what you are asking.

You can switch "across" and "over" in the sentence and have the same basic meaning.

I cannot conceive what it looks like.

This is meant to be a desciption of the darkening of the land and sky at "dusk." Dusk is the latter part of twilight. Twilight is the time after the sun goes down. (So first the sun sets, then you have twilight, then you have dusk, then you have nighttime. Except that they fade into each other.)

In this sense, dusk is the closing of the day, just as dawn is the opening of the day.

In this case, the scene apparently intends to describe the increasing darkness that dusk brings.

You could paraphrase it like this:

There was a house on a plain. After the sun set, the sky got darker and darker until I could barely see because it was dusk. Then dusk said goodbye to the day and went over the house and across the plain with its shadows, and the sky became so dark that even the horizon disappeared.

Note "shadows" is in the plural. The intent of the author seems to be that "shadows" (plural) refer to the darkness that dusk is and brings/sweeps, and not to the house's shadow (as cast by the setting sun). Ordinarily, the setting sun would bring long shadows, but here it is Dusk that brings its shadows and sweeps them over the plain. Shadows are the darkness that dusk brings with itself.

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