Development of Tension in Several Stories
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
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
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...