Charles Dickens starts his story with a very light atmosphere with him describing a man who was sent abroad to fight for his country and how he was sent home and so he retired from the service. He doesn’t expand on his experiences from the war at all, which maybe could be due to shame or loss of character. His wife and he then withdrew to the estate inherited by his wife which then belonged to him, as this was the done thing in at that time.
After such a light hearted opening the atmosphere drops dramatically as he says “this is the last night I have to live”, this then causes the reader to want to read on with the question in the back of their head, why is that the last night he has to live? In that same paragraph he says “I was never a brave man, and had always been from my childhood of a secret, distrustful nature” this straight away informs the reader of the nature of this man, but I found this strange that a man who has come out and said that he was never very brave as a child, but years later found himself enrolled into the army.
“I speak of myself as if I had passed from the world”, this indicated to me that he has come to terms with the fact that he is going to die, for whatever reason that may be, which builds increasing tension even this early in the story. The next paragraph explains the abstracted relationship with his brother, but they both found themselves married to two sisters.
When I first read “his wife knew me well, I never struggled with any secret jealousy or gall when she was present but that woman knew it as well as I did. I never raised my eyes at such times but I found hers fixed on me” there are a few interpretation that could be taken from this, either she was really gazing upon him as they were in each other’s presence or that he found his imagination getting the better of him, however we can not be sure as I don’t really trust his judgement as the narrator.
I think the tension increases considerably and the atmosphere becomes very heavy when he talks of his relief that his brother’s wife died abroad, “I was afraid of her; she haunted me” even after her death and this is where I started to question his sanity, he is almost saying that he can feel her eyes on him through her grave.
“When my brother knew that all hope of his own recovery was past, he called my wife to his bed-side, and confided child of four years old, to her protection” I was very curious as to why he called his brother’s wife to his bed-side rather than his brother, maybe he also shared the suspicions that not all was normal with his brother.
“Perhaps I hide the truth from myself, but I do not think that when this began, I meditated to do him any wrong” at this point I believe he is realising that something is wrong with him and I found the tension rising as the reader is then wondering what the man is contemplating to do to the child, he implies that he is thinking of killing the child when he says “I was under a fascination which made it a kind a business with me to contemplate his slight and fragile figure and think how easily it might be done” it obviously being the killing, but with this statement he felt no remorse for what he was saying, which I found quite abnormal which of course this man is. “I spent days in shaping with my pocket knife a rough model of a boat, which I finished and dropped in the child’s way” this made me realise that the boat was just a lure to get the child to the lake, which obviously a four year old would be completely oblivious to.
He sometimes denies thinking about killing the child but goes to such lengths as to spend days making a boat as a lure for the child and the way that he “stole down after him, creeping under certain shrubs” almost like if the child sees him he will suspect his actions, this again signals his tendency to become pointlessly paranoid. As I reader I got very tense as the child was preparing to play with his boat in the lake, and the man was preparing to drown the child. As he was just about to push the child he saw his shadow and turned around, this was when he decided not to drown him, but to stab him instead. I think he decided to do this because as the child turned around and saw him “his mother’s ghost was looking from his eyes” and stabbed the child on the spur of the moment.
“I sat at the bedroom windows all day long and watched the spot where the dreadful secret lay” even though he doesn’t admit this, I believe he was genuinely disgraced by what he had done, even though it was premeditated I think he was haunted by his actions and that he has to stay and watch the spot so as nothing disturbs it. He describes his anguish when a bird landed on the plot of grass he thought the bird would be “instrumental in the discovery”. After three days of ceaseless watching of the plot of grass, two officers visited about the “missing” child on the fourth. “Then I sat down with my chair upon the grave”, I am sure he did this so as long as he was sat upon the grave nothing could be discovered. Later on a pair of bloodhounds came into the garden and started circling around the chair the man sat on the atmosphere gets very heated as everyone is shouting at each other “In heavens name move!
Or you will be torn to pieces” shouted one of the officers, “let them tear me limb from limb, I’ll never leave this place”, I think this is where the officers were aware of the man’s crime, as he would rather get torn limb from limb by the two bloodhounds than give up his position where his secret lay. “I am alone in this evil dungeon with my evil spirit, I die tomorrow” I think he is now along the line of thinking that him dying would part him from his evil spirit. I think this is because he knows he deserves to die, just as the child didn’t. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.