Many factors in Thomas Hardy’s ‘The superstitious man’s story’ contribute to its realism and potency as a ghost story. Hardy, having been brought up in similar surroundings to the story, has an automatic knowledge and understanding of village life and everyday events. These are a large focus in this particular tale, used to make it more believable and less cliched. When reading this story it is easy to imagine the characters and the setting as they have been created to represent the average person’s life. Purposely, Thomas Hardy has fabricated this environment for his characters.
Although Hardy wants to interest his readers, introducing simplicity to the setting is a vital element in creating this successful story. To make a story realistic as in ‘The Superstitious Man’s Story’ readers have to be able to imagine the setting. At the time this folk tale was written, the village Hardy describes is one that many people reading the story would be able to imagine and to which they could relate. Within the village, we see that there are many generations of the family living there as the narrator introduces Nancy as “Jim Weedle’s daughter”.
This adds to the realism in the story as we are given a slight history of the village and the people living within it. The people in the village all know each other very well and we see how close-knit the community is. We see this during Mrs Privett’s conversation with Nancy when she tells her – “you do look sleepy today”. Although this is not a rude comment, it is not very polite, which implies that the two women must know each other well enough to be honest. It is understandable that in this small village there is not much for its habitants to do in the evenings.
This is why it is believable that Nancy and her friends would spend an evening outside the church, a focal point in the village. Hardy has cleverly made this story believable by making it possible that the events in the story can be interpreted as coincidences. For example, when the sexton notices that the church bell went “very heavy all of a sudden”; this can be interpreted from two different viewpoints. The first would be along the lines of superstition, and tells us that someone in the village is due to die soon. The second insinuates that the bell merely needs to be oiled.
There is nothing very special about the plot of this story. It revolves around the people of the village going about their daily lives, for example, as the story begins; we see that Mrs Privett has stayed up late to “finish her ironing”. This obviously makes the story believable as Mrs Privett is doing things that the ordinary reader can relate to as they most probably do them themselves. All of the characters in the story are simple ordinary people. Mrs Privett irons for other people, which shows that she is not particularly rich.
There is nothing very unique about any of the characters and can be found in the readers’ everyday life. This we can see using the example of Nancy. Nancy could easily be called the village gossip, as she is willing to impart information to Mrs. Privett about her husband. For example, she enters the church on Midsummer’s Eve telling her “I don’t mind letting you know”. This makes the story more believable for the readers as they may very easily have encountered similar people in their lives. Before we even read the story, we are told that the narrator is “superstitious” from the title.
As he is superstitious his views are biased and he influences the way in which the audience interprets the story. The narrator emphasises the superstition in the story and makes events more melodramatic, saying “to her great surprise and I might say alarm”. He is very subtly adding his own views to the story, “I might say”, which manipulates the reader into taking his point of view. From the very beginning, the narrator addresses the audience as if they are part of the community, suggesting we know the characters, “William, as you may know” bringing the reader into the story.
The story is made more believable because it seems that that the events are happening to someone the reader knows. The short amount of dialogue used in this story is not very spectacular language, but this is what makes it effective within the story. When Mrs Privett and Nancy are talking, they are using ordinary, everyday language. As none of the language is particularly dramatic and there are no very tense moments, it is more believable that the conversation takes place and people can relate to it more easily.
An accent has been given by Hardy to his characters in this story to give the village more ‘personality’. We can clearly see the accent as the two women talk “I can tell ‘ee by what we saw”. Hardy uses locally known superstitions to add realism to this short story. As we read the story, it appears that the superstitions have come true. However, as these superstitions could be explained as mere coincidences it is the duty of the reader to decide whether they believe it.