From the title of this story, the reader gets the impression that there will be a climax at the end of the story. The reader is aware that there will inevitably be a climatic moment, when much of the story will make sense. This creates tension at the very beginning because it makes the reader wonder and guess at what might happen at the end of the party. There is a sense of foreboding about the party, which is explored and explained later in the story.
From the beginning “Peter lay down with his eyes on his brother” (2nd paragraph 192) we are aware that Peter is the more dependable and older figure of the twins. He is obviously protective of his brother, (despite the age gap being only a matter of minutes). The author gives Peter’s extra few minutes of light in the world “while his brother had still struggled in pain and darkness,” (last paragraph 192) as a reason for his self-reliance, and the protectiveness that he feels towards his brother.
Francis is portrayed as being weak and “afraid of so many things” (last paragraph 192), when Francis has a bad dream (page 192) the reader gets the impression that there will be an important event there and then. This excites the reader and raises an air of expectation that is hard to shake off once it is in place. It makes adrenaline start to pump through the reader’s body so they are made to feel tense. During the dream Peter gets the impression of a large bird swooping. This is meant to show how closely linked the twins minds are, that Peter knows what Francis is dreaming about.
The writer could be using Mrs Henne-Falcon’s name as imagery. A falcon is a large bird, and Francis may have subconsciously latched onto this and so, while dreaded thoughts of her party are in his head, he has bad dreams involving a large bird. The large bird seems to signify a coming doom. By telling Peter that he dreamt he was dead, he gives the reader an idea of what may have happened by “the end of the party”. While the boys lie in bed looking at each other it is as though their minds are linked.
They do not need to explain what the topic of conversation is, they can just made a comment that concerns the party, and the other knows what the first is making reference to. This makes it seem as though they were meant to be one person and should not have been split into two people. If this were the case then it appears that Peter received the good qualities and so need fear nothing while Francis received bad qualities and so fears everything. Although the reader is not told anything about the real reason for Francis’s reluctance to go, they guess that there is more to it than merely Francis’s dislike of Joyce and Mable Warren.
After Francis tells Peter that he doesn’t want to go, he believes that Peter will make all the necessary effort to ensure that he will not have to attend the party. To Francis, is as good an assurance as he could have received that he will not have to go. When the nurse enters the room, she very quickly dismisses Peter’s suggestion that Francis should stay in bed, as though there is a driving pulse that keeps Francis moving towards the inevitable darkness. Francis resolves that he will get up but with “sudden desperation” (3rd paragraph 194) states that he will not go to the party.
This gives the first real impression to the reader as to the extent of Francis’s fear of the dark and how desperate he is to avoid it. To demonstrate this he even swears on the bible, (this is evidently meant to be the most grave of oaths that he can have made) as “God would not allow him to break so solemn an oath” (3rd paragraph 194). When Francis’s mother raises the question of his cold at the breakfast table he dismisses it because he has such faith in God. His mother then says ironically that they would have heard more about it, but for the party.
At that point the reader sees that that there is a double irony, in that he would have been allowed to stay home from the party if he faked illness, because the adults do not realise that in fact Francis is not looking forward to the party. The adults believe that he is playing down an illness so that he may go to the party. This is the second point in the story when the reader sees that Francis is doomed to go to the party, he has missed his only chance.
Upon meeting Joyce whilst out for a walk alone with his nurse, he realises “how soon the hour of the party would arrive. (1st paragraph 195). This is yet another indication that he will be going to the party. Usually when a party is being described from a child’s viewpoint, it is seen as being an event that is in the distant future and the hour of it will never come. This is the complete opposite of how Francis sees Mrs Henne-Falcon’s party. When the time comes for them to leave, Francis is evidently in a panic and considers running back to his mother and declaring that he is scared to go and that he will not go.
This makes the reader think about what his mother would say; because of the way that she is described, the reader thinks that she will get angry with Francis, so there is tension, because the reader knows the real reason for his reluctance to go. The reader is encouraged to wish that his mother could just realise the truth and not put him through the torment of “breaking down for ever the barrier of ignorance which saved his mind from his parents’ knowledge” (2nd paragraph 195). Then, however, he realises what his mother would say “don’t be silly, you must go” and how fruitless an activity it would be.
Once again the reader is brought to the awareness that nothing will stop the driving pulse that irresistibly pushes him ever closer to the party. Once they arrive at the party Francis is portrayed as being very nervous and scared of what may come if he doesn’t act quickly. At this point the reader is given another indication of what is to come at the end, “His heart beat unevenly” (1st paragraph page 196). This description of him seems to suggest that his fear of the dark was so deep that he could physically affected by it.
This image of an irregularly beating heart gives the impression that it could give up as soon as he is subject to what it is that he fears. Up until this point in the story Francis’s thoughts have centred solely around how he would avoid the party. Now that he is at the party he realises t hat so far he has failed and now he must strive to find another way to avoid the game in the dark. This raises tension in the reader because they hope and almost pray that he shall manage to avoid it because if he doesn’t we can see that the consequences could be catastrophic.
The reader is almost as scared as Francis, only they are scared for him and not of the dark itself. They are thinking of ways that he could avoid the game. Their mind races wildly as they try to come up with a solution. This makes the reader tense because they feel that they are in a race against time, despite the fact that they can stop reading at any point. At tea Francis becomes “fully conscious of the imminence of what he feared. ” (2nd paragraph 196).
When Joyce announces at the table that they would play hide and seek in the dark after tea, Peter is brought back into the story after having not much to do in the middle of it. He sees Francis’s “troubled face” (near bottom of 196) and remembers that this is the moment that Francis has been dreading all day. This was why he had been “ill” that morning and why he hadn’t wanted to go to the party. Once again he tries to intervene on Francis’s behalf and stop the game from going ahead. When informed that the game is in the “programme” he knows that it is useless to argue.
Yet again there is a sense that the future is written, (the programme is a symbol of this), and that nothing either of the twins do can stop the irresistible force/driving pulse, pushing them towards the game. Peter has failed for the third time and has let down his brother. Just before the boys leave the dinner table to go into the hall, Peter again sees the great bird darken his brothers face. Then they go and meet the other children and Mrs Henne-Falcon. At this point the writer has created a closer link between Francis’s fear and Mrs Henne-Falcon’s name.
When they meet the “mustering and the impatient eyes of Mrs Henne-Falcon” (1st paragraph 197), as the writer puts it the reader again gets the sense of a force that wants to keep the twins moving towards the game, that Mrs Henne-Falcon and the other children are a part of the pulse, and are angry at having been made to wait for the boys. When Peter sees Francis’s “lips tighten”, (2nd paragraph 197), the reader can almost feel Francis’s whole body tense up and become rigid with fear. He approaches Mrs Henne-Falcon and tries to stay calm and give a reasonable excuse as to why he should not play.
Although he does not manage to make eye contact with Mrs Henne-Falcon, and so he may look to be insincere, the reader can almost hear the crystal clear pronunciation and politeness of his words and flat tone that he would speak in as he makes his last ditch effort to be excused from the game. The words “it will be no use my playing. My nurse will be calling for me very soon” (3rd paragraph 197) sound very adult and mature as though he is trying to do the right thing. The tension is thick in the air as the reader wonders how Mrs Henne-Falcon will reply to so polite and mature an excuse.
Francis is imagined to be as still as a statue and hardly breathing as he awaits the reply. Then all his hopes are dashed as once again the confident, (and ironic), adult response is made, that is “Oh, but your nurse can wait”. Ironic because usually an adult would have commended a child on such forward thinking whilst now only dismissing it. By adding the statement, “I think I had better not play” (bottom paragraph 197), an air of tension is created within the story and the reader as they wonder how Francis’s persistence will go down with Mrs Henne-Falcon.
Tension is created effectively in this paragraph (bottom of 197) by the fact that only Francis is described, thus making the reader believe, that all else in the room has stopped, and that the other children are all staring at him and awaiting to hear the response of Mrs Henne-Falcon. Before anyone can get angry or upset Peter butts in and says that “The dark makes him jump so”, Francis’s moment had arrived. Now the reader knew that he would have to make a choice. Whether to dismiss the statement or welcome it and be excused from the game.
The reader is still tense from a few moments before but now they have more reason to be so because they know that the Francis’s pride will overcome his fear in that very small moment despite the fact that the fear is the greater force. The reader’s idea of what is about to happen is reinforced when six children start to call him a “cowardy custard”. The hopes of the reader are dashed when he defies them and agrees to play. He does this without looking at Peter. He is obviously angry with Peter, so there is more tension in the room.
While the reader is giving thought to this, the other children seem begin to announce the different conditions under which Francis’s torture would take place. Again there seems to be a pulse that is almost running ahead of itself with lights being extinguished in every direction. The reader finds it unbearable. The story is reaching its climax: A whole day has passed in the space of just six pages and now just one hour is being dragged out into three pages. It gives the impression of time slowing down just to add to Francis’s torment.
Then after being told that they were on the hiding team “the light was gone” (4th paragraph 198) and they were left bereft of light. The writer now focuses on Peter as though the mere extinguishing of the light is enough to destroy Francis. Peter is now in a new race to find his brother before the seekers do. The reader is almost praying that he does so that the worst may be yet avoided. The tension is increased still further when the reader is made to feel the darkness has brought to life some evil creatures that are stalking Peter “the metallic sound set a host of cautious feet moving in his direction” (2nd paragraph 199).
All the noises in the dark are ominous, strange and evil to someone like Francis. As Peter makes his way across the floor towards Francis the reader feels sick to the stomach as he realises what is going to happen. Peter was, to Francis, just another evil creature in the dark, creeping and crawling towards him. When he “lays the fingers across his brothers face” (2nd paragraph 199), there is a leap of terror in Peter that mirrors a “proportion of Francis’s terror” (3rd paragraph 199). The reader is almost shouting at the book, at Peter, to say something before he extends his alien hand to touch his brothers hand.
The reader’s stomach is rigid with anticipation. He want’s to know what has happened. Surely that cannot be the end of Francis? But if not then what was all that anticipation for? The reader will read faster rushing towards the end as he awaits for just one sign that Francis is okay. Peter can still feel the pulse of his brothers fear driving him to whisper more and more comforting things in Francis’s ear. The tension continues for the duration of the darkness as though the darkness has become tension itself. If only the darkness would lift all would be well.
Thoughts like this are racing through the readers mind. Then as sudden as it descended the darkness is gone. The chandelier lights up, “like a fruit-tree, into bloom. ” (1st paragraph 200) and the reader feels the tension release itself as the ordeal is over for Francis. The questions regarding the whereabouts of Peter and Francis are reassuring in their own right. The scream of Mrs Henne-Falcon lets the reader know that Francis’s true fate is much worse than they had thought just moments before. The tension is at its peak as the reader knows that at this point, Francis’s fate has been decided by the writer.
These lines feel like the longest in the story. The tension has reached its peak. “Francis Morton’s stillness” (last paragraph 200) is enough to tell the reader what has happened. His irregular heart beat had been the sign of a weak heart. Now this was the proof. Tension slips away and gives way to grief. The grief of Peter and that of the reader. The muscles are aching, from the build up of tension that has lasted for the duration of the story and for several minutes after the reader has finished, as he/she sits in silence thinking about the story.
In conclusion I think that tension was created and maintained effectively throughout the story. So well, that it transfers itself to the readers body. It is maintained by the steady driving irresistible pulse that takes the story to its conclusion. It is only when the story comes to an end that the reader realises just how tense he has been. While the tension eases out of him it is apparent that the writer has been manipulating the reader and used his body to help maintain the tension throughout.