With Specific Reference to Language, Discuss how Short Story writers use the conventions of the Gothic in order to Create Tension and Suspense. Refer to Three Short Stories in detail and at least five in total. Gothic short stories were popular during the Victorian age and the five discussed in this essay are set in that era too. Gothic stories are written in order to frighten the reader, using a variety of techniques that heighten tension and suspense and force the reader to read on. We are able to differentiate between tension and suspense, as they are quite different feelings, however similar they may seem on the face of it.
This differentiation is important as it allows a more in depth exploration of the use of certain techniques. Tension is a state of mental or emotional strain, whilst, suspense is apprehension about what is going to happen. These frames of mind are important in Gothic literature because they are what frighten the reader; they create a sense of excitement in an otherwise mundane series of events. The narrative mode in which the story is written affects the atmosphere which is conveyed, with each different person giving a different emphasis to a particular aspect of the story.
For example a third person narrative would put more emphasis on the unfolding of the story and the action. It also allows for an overview of everybody’s thoughts and feelings, but whilst doing this often sacrifices the sense of unknowing or naivety, that can create tension and suspense when a story is narrated through a single person’s perspective. All of the stories I have chosen with the exception of The Withered Arm, are written in first person narrative. First person narrative allows an in depth description of the person’s emotions and thought processes, such as reasoning the inexplicable.
It also shows the degree of confidence the narrator shows. It can increase tension for the reader as we only know what they know. We can see how at the beginning of the Red Room, the narrator shows confidence; it “would take a very tangible ghost to frighten [him]. ” This idea of not being scared of the supernatural is displayed by the use of first person narrative. The narrative shows how the narrator reasons whether something is dangerous or frightening or not. The “tangible” nature of an apparition would make it seem more real and more frightening, compared to a vague suggestion of something supernatural.
The confidence that is shown at the beginning of The Red Room contrasts with what the narrator feels when he actually enters the red room. Shortly after entering the room the narrative changes and starts to reflect anxiety of the narrator. This anxiety, in turn, leads him “to form a kind of barricade. ” The idea that the narrator forms a “barricade” suggests that he is frightened and wishes to protect himself against, what he believes to be, a prevailing enemy. There is a complete eradication of confidence within the narrator, which was discernible at the beginning.
This dramatic and rather exaggerated change is what creates tension. If something is able to make someone who is very logical and confident frightened, the reader automatically assumes that antagonists wield powers beyond that of the narrator. In addition to The Red Room, The Speckled Band also exploits the use of a first person narrative. The Speckled Band however, utilises the first person in a slightly different way. Although a change in the apprehension is evident in Watson, the aspect that adds most to the suspense, is the way in which the narrator narrates the story.
The narrator writes that he shan’t “ever forget that dreadful vigil,” showing the narrator’s inner thoughts and emotions that a third person couldn’t see or convey. The fact that the “vigil” is “dreadful” almost provides an explanation of what is about to happen without providing details. The reader knows that what is about to happen is “dreadful”, this makes the reader try to contemplate and envisage what is about to happen; which is undoubtedly going to encompass a great deal of suffering. This unknowing heightens the sense of suspense and tension.
It is not always in the writer’s best interests to use the first person narrative mode in Gothic literature because if a story contains numerous characters, explaining the thoughts and feelings through a single person would be impractical. Thomas Hardy employs the first person in The Withered Arm because the story has an array of characters that are used to form the plot. The narrative mode means that you can understand the emotions and thoughts of each and every different character. You can sympathise with Gertrude’s “affliction” whilst understanding Rhoda’s dislike of Gertrude.