Literary and Narrative Devices Used to Create Tension in Whistle and I'll Come by Susan Hill and Night by Alice Munro

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Gothic literature often employs dark scenery, startling and extravagant narrative devices, and an overall atmosphere of mystery, fear, and dread. The primary way that Hill creates tension in the extract is through the theme of isolation. And Munro can create tension through by portraying the protagonist as vulnerable as this fit in with the gothic genre. Both writers use a large variety of language devices to create tension such as pathetic fallacy and others. Initially, Hill builds a sense of isolation through her depiction of the weather. Following the situation of Arthur Kipps being alone, Hill uses pathetic fallacy to make him feel as if he is being attacked by the weather. Hill describes the aggression of the weather happening outside Eel Marsh House. “The tumult of the wind, like a banshee and the banging and rattling of the window”. Hill uses a pair of onomatopoeic verbs “banging” and “rattling” to suggest that it makes Arthur Kipps feel as if something is attacking the house. Additionally, Hill includes similes in her writing similes in her writing “like a banshee” to describe how loud and harsh and the word “banshee” could foreshadow that that a death has or will occur outside. This is because in Irish Mythology banshees make a scream-like noise and this is like what Arthur Kipps is hearing outside. In her description of the weather, Hill uses gothic convections such as vocabulary associated with fear and the supernatural and has an effect which shows that anything bad could potentially happen.

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Furthermore, Hill extends the sense of isolation through the supernatural. At the point in the extract when Kipps is alone and stood alone in pitch blackness and feels as if someone else is in the house with him. “And the person who had gone by, and who was now in this house with me?... Perhaps it was the woman in black?”. The use of a rhetorical question in Arthur Kipps's narrative could suggest that he is questioning himself if there is anyone else in the house with him despite the fact that he knows that he is the only person currently in the house. His reference to the woman in black is showing that he is starting to believe in the superstitions of the woman in black and Kipps is starting to become more confused. His fear that he is not alone is making him start to doubt himself that he is alone, and Kipps receives a sense of perceived danger. Munro creates tension by portraying the protagonist as vulnerable and in jeopardy as she is thinking about killing her sister. At this point in the text, she is struggling to fall asleep at night due to an operation that she had had recently. As she tries to fall asleep, she wonders 'Why not try the worst?” The use of a rhetorical question shows that she does not care how badly she could hurt her sister even though it is her sister that she is willing to kill, and we wonder if she is capable of it. It also shows that she is lacking control. The worst that she is referring to is “the thought that [She] could strangle my little sister”. Because of Munro’s earlier references to her conflictions between her sister when she describes her spitting on her. This creates tension as we worry that she can do the worst due to the narrator's unpredictability as she is being possessed and has the potential to kill her sister as she is unable to fall asleep.

Following on from this passage in the text, tension drops however Munro again increases it as she describes the narrator outside of the house when she feels as if she is being followed. “I got a sense, too late to change my pace, that there was somebody around the corner”. Munroe’s use of an additional clause in the middle of the sentence makes it clear that the narrator knows it is too late to go back. Following this sentence, the tension reaches a climax with the use of a rhetorical question “Who was it?”. This makes the narrator seem anxious about the consequences that could happen to her and potentially the type of person that it could be who is following her. As Munro creates her as such a vulnerable and lonely character this fits into the gothic genre and as the person who is following her turns out to be her father, she is soon able to fall asleep again at night. To conclude, in “Whistle and I’ll Come to You” Hill creates tension using the key themes of the supernatural, isolation and builds a sense of it through her depiction of the weather which is especially effective in her portrayal of Arthur Kipps’ frightened character. Similarly, in “Night”, Munro creates tension through her description of the narrator's emotional journey, and she uses clear moments such as when she tries to kill her younger sister to emphasise this.


I chose to write about “Whistle and I’ll come” by Susan Hill and “Night” by Alice Munro because of how they both use a large variety of gothic conventions to create tension in their writing. Both writers also use a range of different language structures to create tension. Both writers use a vulnerable protagonist. They both feel isolated and are set at night and use Pathetic Fallacy and each protagonist shows extreme emotion and thoughts. I did not write about “The necklace” by Guy de Maupassant and “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin as they both mainly talk about the social climate that they experienced in the late 1800’s.

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Literary and Narrative Devices Used to Create Tension in Whistle and I’ll Come by Susan Hill and Night by Alice Munro. (2020, December 28). WritingBros. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
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