This short story is set in the 17th century when Charles the second reigned. The title tells us what the story will briefly be about, in this case a confession. In the opening paragraph the narrator sounds like a very well respected man, proud, and from what I can see reasonably well off ‘a small estate lying a few miles east of London’ At the start he doesn’t seem to feel guilty about anything and seems likes normal man, which makes us stop and think, what can this man of done?
The crime is somewhat a mystery, this is what the narrator is trying to do, he is making us respond and feel that we need to read on to find out his reasons for such a crime. We seem very confused to what the man has done, and seem very surprised when we read on to find out that he is a murderer, let alone the murderer of a child. This is where we notice his split personality and realize he is trying to make us sympathise with him, the narrator is very clever in the way he does it.
We keep asking ourselves questions, the narrator is trying to arouse our curiosity by making us curious to why such a respected man would do such a thing. Dickens develops the character quite a lot throughout the opening paragraph; he seems to paint some sort of picture of this person. He develops this character more and more which keeps our interest as the reader sustained, at this point most of all we are given another side to his personality.
In the following paragraph we find out a lot more about the narrator and why he is writing this confession, we find out that it is his last night to live ‘I will set down the naked truth without disguise,’ the brings the title back into consideration, it’s a confession and he intends to be truthful without disguise, he wants us to know who he is and what he has done and also wants us to know the reasons why, whether we decide to sympathise with him is up to us.
He then goes on to describe himself, he uses the phrase ‘I was’ to make us think he had changed and that he had a good enough reason for his crime, he talks in the past tense this might be because he knows that he will die tomorrow whatever happens, he has nothing to lose therefore he speaks the entire truth, it’s a death bed confession. He speaks harshly and is critical about himself quite often ‘I was never a brave man’. Dickens then provides us with more information about the narrator’s background.
We are surprised at the coolness of the narrator when he talks about the death of his brother ‘circumstance gave me slight or no pain’ this seems to us as the reader, a weird or different way of portraying his feelings towards his brother. There is a lack of feeling or emotion stemmed from pure jealously, he is left feeling inferior when his brother was around, and his brother is better than him at everything, so he says. ‘He was open hearted, generous, handsomer than I.. this is where most of us as the reader start to feel sympathy for him, still not knowing what he has done, maybe this was the narrators intention to make us feel like this and then surprises us, his might seem a good way to justify his actions.
He seems to be extremely honest about it all; when he is talking about his brother for example, he is trying to fight off the bitterness and how worthless he felt because of it. Later on in the opening extract we find out about another relationship, this time about his sister in law, his brother’s wife, this again was not a successful relationship this was purely based on hatred for one another.
His wife knew me well’ she was conscious of the jealously he felt towards his brother, she detected the envy on his mind, more so than anyone else, possibly signs of this would open in the way he spoke to her and his tone of voice towards her, he uses words like’ haunted’ she didn’t trust him that is why they didn’t get along, he seemed afraid of her because she was one of those people that could see the evil in him. When she died he was relieved ‘relief still when I heard she was dead’ this is where we as the reader stop and think quite deeply, how can someone have so much hate for a person that when they die they are relieved?
The reader in kept in suspense because of its effective opening and a very convincing character role, the readers attention is grabbed because of the changes in character; this is what Charles Dickens is trying to make us see. When we do read on to find out he’s a murderer we are surprised but then think it all makes sense now, and everything is now clear, we see what the narrator was trying to do which made us respond to the short story.