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Thomas Hardy's The Three Strangers, in contrast to many similar mystery stories by writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson uses a rural setting.

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Introduction

English Coursework Prose Text Analysis Thomas Hardy's The Three Strangers, in contrast to many similar mystery stories by writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson uses a rural setting. This emphasises the isolation of a house "five miles from a county-town" and the "loneliness" associated with the house, a good setting for suspense, enabling a heightened sense of drama. The "undefended" house that "was exposed to the elements on all sides" shows a vulnerability to the people inside the house as well as the house itself being susceptible. This "forlorn dwelling" also has a timelessness associated with it, as no one is endeavouring or has ever attempted to protect it in any way. Hardy gives a specific date to the night when these events took place, suggesting that it was true, and therefore the realism makes the story more chilling. The approach of the "full moon" suggests that strange happenings are likely to take place, as in many mystery stories, and the reader starts to think that a strange event will ensue, and the darkness increases tension, as visibility is greatly reduced, making the characters more defenceless. The suspense is accentuated by the time it takes the "human figure" to reach the cottage, as when he arrives, questions about this strange character will be answered. Hardy uses further delaying tactics by placing this character under the outhouse, and then telling the reader about the perilous weather that also furthers tension, as everyone becomes exposed. Finally when the reader thinks that he will knock on the door he "pauses," again increasing the suspense as the reader just wants to know what his purpose is. When this man is inside the house, no direct answers to questions are given, and he retires in solitude to a corner, where one is unlikely to find out any more about him. Another knock at the door creates an intrigue, as on such a night, two random knocks on such a lonely door in these dreadful conditions are very peculiar. ...read more.

Middle

The repeat of the increase of noise when the rat had been chased up the rope appeared most mystifying, with another rise of suspense, as this would be likely to occur again and one wants to find out why. Whilst Malcolmson handled the alarm bell's rope, he noticed that one "could hang a man with it," hinting that he is doomed, and therefore elevating the tension. When the rat returned and was hunted for the second time that night, it gave a "look of terrible malevolence," another unusual description for a rat's behaviour, again suggesting that this is no ordinary rat. Malcolmson saw where it leapt - into a picture - but was unable to see the painting through a "coating of dirt and dust". This delaying tactic used by Stoker means that the reader has to wait until the following day to find out if there is any significance about where the rat leapt, therefore increasing the suspense. The irony of The Bible that "fetched" the rat caused him to look "round uneasily," and this is the first time we see any sign of agitation from Malcolmson, possibly another sign that the story is doomed, and increasing the suspense, as thoughts return of the rat being satanic. The following day when Malcolmson visited Mrs Witham, it seems slightly curious that she has invited a doctor to "advise" Malcolmson. This adds to the suspense, as we can clearly see other people's concerns for Malcolmson. When told by the doctor that the rope was used by the hangman to execute the "victims of the Judge's judicial rancour," accompanied by Mrs Witham's second scream, the suspense is once again raised, and the Doctor's prompt exit begins a tense scene. The "promise of a storm" that night means that aid will take longer to arrive, and traditionally, bad weather is often an indicator of difficulty, placing Malcolmson in a far more isolated and therefore more tense situation. ...read more.

Conclusion

The tension remains, as these criminals emerge unscathed, although losing an expensive piece of equipment in the hydraulic press. Hatherley's "revenge upon them" by indirectly burning down their house seems inadequate, as he probably would have rather received justice and compensation, as the criminals would still be unconfined, and free to begin coin forging once more. All three of these stories use a nighttime setting and purposeful delays in the story telling to accentuate suspense. The use of an exclusion zone in all three helps build up tension through the anxiety associated with loneliness, unlike stories such as Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which uses the isolation of the city to create an air of mystery. Conan Doyle's story although based in London concerns an incident in a solitary setting, as with the other two. Nighttime is a time of mystery, and the lack of visibility, especially in those days when lamps were the only form of illumination, can create a greater sense of mystery and suspense through one's lack of knowledge of what is going on. The narrative can also intrigue by not informing the reader of a character, most noticeably in The Three Strangers, where it is only at the end when everything seems to make sense, the final outcome of which is unexpected, and even then one never finds out the names of the strangers. The gothic horror of The Judge's House is very different from the other two stories, as it involves paranormal activities, and is therefore more frightening and horrific. All three mention God, or the devil at some stage to account for or emphasise the events, as at that time the religious society in which the reader would have lived in would make the reader far more terrified of the situation, raising the tension. All three of these stories use setting and narrative repeatedly to successfully create an atmosphere of suspense of mystery. 02/05/2007 -1- Will Forbes ...read more.

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