Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Hollow of the Three Hills - Nathaniel Hawthorne. Suspense

Essay Question: Comment on the ways Hawthorne develops suspense in The Hollow of the Three Hills.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Hollow of the Three Hills' develops suspense in the very opening line as the "strange old times" introduces the unknown. This unknown is strengthened by Hawthorne's introduction of the concept of reality and fantasy merging into one, a setting in which "madmen's reveries" were "amongst the actual circumstances of life"; Hawthorne's use of a world of the abnormal, or rather, the supernatural is thus built. This combination of setting in time and the need for the story to be completed in "one hour" create anticipation; the time running out therefore builds suspense.

Furthermore, the use of a "decaying" and desolate setting contributes to the mystery: as "no mortal could observe them" in this place. Hawthorne creates an ominous mood through the use of negative metaphors and images referring to death. "Brown grass" and a hollow devoid of growth not only contribute to this mood but foreshadow events to come. Therefore, the dark and desolate mood not only accentuate the mystery but through the foreshadowing of the setting itself, its significance creates suspense.

This significance is strengthened by the placement of the hollow between "three hills" and thus Hawthorne develops a symbolic pattern to liken the hollow to being bellow the Holy Trinity, Heaven. This association of religion is brought about by the supernatural nature of the events unfolding, the references to an ethereal and almost otherworldly setting. The combination of Heaven and the "Power of Evil" that is felt in the hollow indicate a place between heaven and hell: a place of judgement - a purgatory of sorts. The symbolic significance of the hollow as a place of judgement of sin creates an anticipation and thus suspense as a feeling of impending judgement is strengthened.

The very style in 'The Hollow of the Three Hills' develops a sense of confusion and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Hawthorne's dense and impeccably crafted short story present various metaphors in every line, with symbolic patterns that interweave, developing a story that overwhelms just as the lady is overwhelmed.

The presence of sounds associated to visions and these associated apparitions fading into the wind of the hollow create confusion -  brought about by the suggestive nature of the associations that thus continue an ephemeral feel. The antithesis of these sounds in close position to each other strengthens the state of confusion. Hawthorne effectively juxtaposes many images and sounds to extend this feeling of confusion and thus the very style of writing therefore develops suspense through the same confusion felt by both the character and the reader.

Example Essay: rough mark (B)

Click here for an approach on  Self Discovery and Death

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