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Write a practical criticism of the first chapter of ‘Devices and Desires’ - Consider in particular how PD James creates suspense and drama.

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Introduction

Write a Practical Criticism of the First Chapter of 'Devices and Desires'. Consider in particular how PD James creates suspense and drama. PD James' strength is creating complex and believable characters that fill the book. Her plots are imaginative and subtly hidden in the story. We read and delve deeper into the characters minds and motives. The suspense is superbly built up with a realized sense of time and place. In the first chapter of 'Devices and Desires' we see how the drama and suspense is brought to a climax and used to great affect in creating interest and mystery. The style of writing, which does not stay at the same tone throughout the chapter, really adds to the whole drama and intensity of the story. In the opening passage PD James uses direct and factual language giving a lot of information rapidly, "Valerie Mitchell, aged fifteen years, eight months and four days." This very specific and accurate presentation of facts is very much reminiscent of a news report or police statement that is the extent of the detail involved. ...read more.

Middle

The soft touches in the word choice incredibly grab you attention. For example "This was the end", is very ambiguous as it could mean the end of Valerie or the end of her social life, but it is only ambiguous because the opening line already told us that Valerie will die. Also later in the chapter these subtle hints begin to get stronger, "My dad'ul kill me" and some irony , "I'll be safe" really pushes you to believe Valerie may not die even though you know she does. This makes the incident more heart-wrenching as you begin to feel sympathetic towards her as she has done no wrong. Also some personification is entailed into the writing with fear becoming alive. There is some use of simile, "brightly lit ship sank out of sight" but the deeper meaning of this imagery is that it is a lost cause and little hints like this occur regularly and add to a more dramatic and sinister undertone to the passages, with the repetition of the murders echoed everywhere that Valerie goes also adding suspense. ...read more.

Conclusion

In my view this is influential in our perception of the character and PD James may have intended this to be the case as then we would not just glance over and take in that the Whistler had another victim, but get involved by knowing what the victims background was and the events leading up to the murder. Also the drama of the first chapter increases with Valerie interacting with other characters, this creates a false sense of security for us and the character as we assume she is safe as she is in the company of two old people. But due to the dramatic irony that we know she will die we suspect everyone who she comes into contact with of being the Whistler. The build up of suspense and creation of drama is added upon with the continuing tension of when the killer will strike. PD James has structured the first chapter extremely well with underlying messages and calculated word choice giving a true suspense being added on all the time to the inevitable climax of the murder. Even though it is known that the character will die, we are still intrigued and our attention is kept by the tone and descriptive telling of the event. ...read more.

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