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‘Creation of suspense is a characteristic feature of narrative in the gothic tradition. Discuss the uses and effectiveness of this device in The Woman in Black and compare them with those that you have noted in one other gothic text.
Susan Hill’s ‘The Woman in Black’ is the ultimate ghost story which relies on the use of suspense, intensity, atmosphere and drama, interwoven in a plot full of intrigue which keeps the reader eager with anticipation. Susan Hill has created a chilling novel which translates into a magnificently eerie and genuinely distressing read. Although everpresent, suspense is cleverly built slowly throughout to create a mounting atmosphere. Furthermore, atmosphere is built through place, strong narrative and dialogue. Hill’s calculated timing of events is also crucial in creating the mood of anxiety.
The first hint of atmosphere building up was when Mr Kidd meets Mr Bentley for the job of sorting out Mrs Drablow’s papers. From the start of the dialogue between Arthur Kidd and Mr Bentley it is obvious that the latter is intent on seeing how much Mr Kidd knows about Eel Marsh House. There are many short questions, avoiding the reader’s attention.
Then Mr. Kidd asks “Children?”, this demonstrates how Susan Hill spans the question out to draw the reader’s attention, and it is clear Mr Bentley most probably knows the answer but is reluctant to tell it. This hints that there might be something wrong or odd here. This withheld information is almost characteristic of the whole foundations of Dracula as character fail to share vital information with eachother which lead to fatal consequences. This technique is very powerful in stirring up emotions as the reader begins to almost urge the characters to share the information which they withold.
In the passage from ‘Across The Causeway’, Kipps sees the Woman in Black for the second time however this time, she has a look of pure malevolence and evil on her face. Kipps begins to question whether the hatred is directed at himslef however he is soon afraid and eventually angry. Susan Hill builds up tension and suspense in this extract by controlling the pace, this gives the extract the required tension since events seem to go by slowly and gradually build to their climax.
This can be linked back to Dracula as events surrounding Lucy and her dramatic death are steadily explained and her death comes a long time after her first encounter with Dracula. General events in Dracula can also be linked back to Susan Hill’s slow paced build up as Mina tries to put together the pieces of the puzzle throughout while characters often are shown to be naï¿½ve in there thinking and do not come to obvious conclusions so as to be able to sustain the tension of the novel.
Even after Kipps has emotionally broken and he is being comforted by Spider, Kipps can still hear the wailing child across the marshes, This gives the reader an image of unrelenting pain and haunting which only succeeds in adding to the suspense and tension. This can also be clearly seen within Bram Stoker’s Dracula as Dracula’s attack on the individuals does not result in a sudden death or transformation but rather begins the cycle which is only completed later in the novel as Lucy is attacked multiple times until she is beyond the point of saving.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, is indeed a successful ghost story, but what makes it so, is not violence, gore, or even bloodshed; It is the underlying, psychological fear of the unknown, which almost every person possess. From right at the beginning when Arthur Kipps strangely shows his anger in a sudden occurrence which is not made clear as to the reasons why, the reader is asked to try and anticipate consequently creating suspense. Such a theme can be seen Bram Stoker’s Dracula frequently particularly during the early stages of the novel as Harker visits the count. During these stages it is not made clear the full extent of the count’s objectives and the reader is only given slight hints through the characters viewpoint so that they are just as helpless as Harker.
In Conclusion, Susan Hill has used a number of various techniques to invoke a sense of suspense into her novel. With these techniques she has created an immense atmosphere which is the foundation towards her chilling novel.