Comment upon how each of the writers of the three stories develops tension in the opening section (first 1 and-a-half pages) of their narrative. The “Black Cottage” was written in 1859 by Wilkie Collins and is a typical example of Victorian melodrama. The story is narrated by a young girl named Bessie as she faces responsibility, insecurity and eventual success.
Strong tension is developed from very early on in this story. With no mother and the rest of her family working away, the young girl is physically and emotionally isolated, creating many potential dangers. Adding to the tension and this sense of isolation is the location of the Black Cottage; it is situated in the heart of a moor in the West of England with no neighbours. Bessie does have some companionship, she knows Mrs. Knifton, and described as her “foster sister” she is a recently married friend of her mother’s.
Despite this, the reader’s curiosity is occupied and immediate questions are raised as she speaks about the friendship and kindness, “I shall remember gratefully to the last day of my life.” Many pieces of extremely effective tension are created here. The name of the cottage is obvious because of the outside exterior decoration and can be established as a symbolic dimension. Black is highly associated with evil and the reader is given a clear impression that something bad will happen there, creating a subtle but significant amount of tension.
In paragraph five the reader realises that Bessie is entirely alone except for the cat. When the message arrives for Bessie’s father to go to the county town for business her absolute certainty over her safety provides apprehension for the reader, “No thieves had ever come as our poverty was sufficient protection against them.” Bessie’s certainty that nothing bad will happen to her is just not convincing enough for the reader as she is miles from the nearest help and a mild ironic sense of tension is developed. Any tension built up is dispelled by the arrival of the Knifton’s. The married couple are enthusiastic and high-spirited people; this causes the reader to temporarily overlook the young girl’s situation.
The reader senses the strange arrangement of the money keeping and most probably knows it will have consequences. The way in which the Knifton’s are so trusting in Bessie, the young girl now put in jeopardy, definitely raises suspicions. The trusting Knifton’s are described as “wild and happy as a couple of children”, this innocence and trust rings alarms bells for the reader. The Black Cottage has many significant points in the first section of the story that add greatly to the build up of tension. The read anticipates something bad to happen after so much tension is built up, the author, Wilkie Collins, has created strong and effective tension excellently. “The Treasure In The Forest” written by H.G. Wells in 1895 also shows many examples of the building up of tension in the first section.
The build up of tension begins early, in the first paragraph, “the thicker and deeper green of the virgin forest showed its course down the distant hill slope”. The description of the forest is clearly stating it is unexplored terrain, this shows uncertainty in the men’s plan which cannot be good. Also in the first paragraph sights in the distance are described, “Far beyond, dim and almost cloudlike in texture, rose the mountains, like suddenly frozen waves.” This too shows the true uncertainty of their journey, raising suspicions for the reader and creating mild yet immediate tension. The men are then described, “Both men spoke in low tones, and their lips were hard and dry.” The two men are already fatigued after their journey, they are now weak and an easier target for danger.
Three paragraphs down the reader is given the distinct feeling of mystery as Evans comments on the unusual markings, “”It’s queer,” said Evans after a pause.” Here the reader becomes more aware that the men do not know the environment they are in, and are therefore in danger. This is a simple yet effective use of tension. We are given another fragment of the place’s history as the man holding the map confirms the writing is Chinese. Suspicion is raised once again on line 29 and an eerie atmosphere is created, “They both sat for some minutes staring at the land, while the canoe drifted slowly.” The tranquillity of this situation is as effective in building tension as the descriptions of the unexplored terrain. The reader almost expects something to happen merely due to how peaceful this moment is, and how the tension has been built up prior to this.