In synthesis, this extract from ‘Maiden Voyage’ by Denton Welch is about a young teenager that finds himself in a stable that decides to explore the countryside even though he is advised not to do so. The opening lines of this passage establish the typical rebellious nature of an adolescent. The character mentions ‘I hated to be dependent on other people. They would never want to do what I wanted to do’. This type of characteristic is mainly present in a teenager who doesn’t get enough attention. Moreover, the voice in the opening passage adds that he feels ‘imprisoned’. This again suggests the reader that the character here is a rebellious teenager that wishes to do what he wants. Another point to note from this quote is that this passage is written in first person narration. The author’s intention for doing this was probably to show the reader the character’s thought flow.
Through the technique of using first person narration the author shows the reader the development of the state of mind of the character. In the first part of the passage as mentioned before the character seem to be rebellious and confident. In fact the character leaves to explore the countryside because he ‘could not stand it no longer.’ Then soon after, a descriptive and detailed description of the journey through the countryside is given. The description was given from the character’s point of view. Through a detailed description the author manages to create an atmosphere of suspense. ‘Everything was still and silent.’ An alliteration is used here to emphasize the silence. The voice also attempts to extend the suspension by mentioning ‘The only sound came from the stunted bushes which squeaked and grated linguistically as the wind passed through them.’ Here the author has also used onomatopoeias such as ‘squeak’ and ‘grate’ in order to make the situation more real to the reader. Moreover the author also utilizes another technique: personification in order to stretch the suspense that is created. ‘Scarves of dust and sand rose up from the ground’. By attributing human behavioral characteristics to non-living elements the author depicts an eerie atmosphere.
Followed by the descriptive atmosphere, the author also provides the reader with the character’s sensations about the new surrounding. Initially when the teenager was at the stable, he feels ‘unhappy’ but now he ‘enjoyed the dreamlike stillness and wanted to stay out for as long as possible’. This also shows that the character has the typical teenager’s adventurous spirit because the character seems to be enthusiastic to carry on with the journey even though the description of the atmosphere is isolated and uncared. After giving the reader a summary of the character’s feelings, the plot moves on.
The young boy continues walking along his journey ‘towards the hills’ till he comes across a ‘black speck’. By providing vague descriptions all of a sudden the author draws the reader’s curiosity to the object. The author build’s the reader’s anticipation progressively by sharpening the vague image provided. Initially it is described as a ‘black speck’ then a ‘dark boulder’ and finally as something ‘pink’ before unveiling what it was.
The author continues to build up the reader’s anticipation to find out what the ‘thing’ is by giving a description of physical reactions that the character undergoes when he sees the decaying human head before revealing what it is. ‘I jumped back, my throat quite dry and my stomach churning. The thing was a human head.’ This is probably an effective way to communicate the horrifying sight because the reactions foreshadows that the object is something frightening. Then the author gives a detailed description of the decaying human head. ‘The nose and eyes had been eaten away and the black hair was caked and grey with dust […] long coarse hairs growing out of its ears.’ This explicit description creates an image of horror and disgust for the reader. The author reaches the climax of suspension in this passage through this detailed description.
After having portrayed the scene of horror in detailed description, the author again gives the sensations and the flow of thoughts of the character that is naturally horrified. ‘Because it was terrible, my eyes had to return to it whenever I looked away. […]. Then I ran.’ This shows how the state of mind of the ‘rebellious’ character has changed after having seen the decaying human head. Here the author has also used a short sentence: ‘Then I ran’, in between two long sentences. Perhaps the author here has tried to make the pace faster and to increase the tension that was created.
The final lines of the passage show the signs of despair developed in the characters mind. ‘There was no gate. I began to feel desperate’. By the end of the extract the state of mind of the character has completely changed as has the atmosphere. Initially the character wanted to be independent but now he is desperate for help. It is also interesting to analyze how the initial environment contrasts with the final environment. The first setting has a ‘garden’, which generally suggests a cared environment but the final setting has wild ‘tall rank grass’, which on the other hand implies it is an uncared location. The author perhaps to show the progression of the character’s state of mind uses the movement from one contrasting location to the next.
Overall, description has been the key narrative technique the author has utilized. It has been fundamental to the author to give the reader the full effect of suspense. The author to show the development of the character’s state of mind and to create the creepy atmosphere has used description in this passage. Through detailed descriptions the author has altogether successfully managed to paint horror in the reader’s mind’s eye.