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What is Narrative Tension?

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Toni Pascale

on 4 January 2015

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Transcript of What is Narrative Tension?

One's A Heifer: Narrative Tension
Arousing Curiosity
Dramatic Questions
Irony and Satire
"The reason that you turn the page"
Suspense that makes the reader continue reading
What is Narrative tension?
Irony
Expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, creating a humours or emphatic effect.
It is clear to the reader yet unknown to the character.
Events that are deliberately contrary to expectations= amusing result
Uses careful play on words/ wordwit
Provides tension in fiction: Strain between what is said, meant/ occurs, normal expectations

3 Different kinds of Irony in Fiction
Verbal
•Characters make statements that are opposite of what they mean (sarcasm). Irony in fiction found in dialogue; define characters through passages & expositions.
Dramatic
Characters making the statement yet don’t understand its ironic (unconscious irony)
ie. Comedy/ First person stories, Narrators not aware how much revealing about themselves.
Prophetic without awareness: not aware they are foretelling the future.
Cosmic
Irony of fate: Outcome opposite of normal expectations (unexpected)
ie. Olympic swimmer drowning in a bathtub. Ironic reversals fiction is muted so not obstructive.
Satire
Use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose/ criticise people’s stupidity or vices (annoying habit that is immoral).
Genre of Literature
Implies judgemental & corrective purpose in a solemn or serious tone
Serious subjects treated like high comedy: never subtle (mild exaggeration), stresses theme or message

Two Dangers of Writing Satire
1. Lack of focus- keep precise and detailed
2. Matter of excess- exaggeration too extreme, turns into slapstick

Irony and Satire in One's a Heifer
1. Vickers (farmer) hostile attitude when the boy trespassed on his land makes the readers first assumption of him to be a mad man, murderer.
But the boy thinks he stole his calves, making him have a hostile attitude
But..... Not enough evidence to accuse the man because he is allowed to get mad at someone trespassing on his land.
Both Vickers and the Boy are using Dramatic Irony: they do not notice the ironic situation the narrator has set in.

2. Vickers won’t let the boy in the Box-Stall, making readers think he is hiding a body.
- Boy think he is hiding his calves
- Elaborate on the reader’s perspective, they think he is keeping the woman he was talking about in advance that he said he had to get rid of hostage in the Box-Stall. “Just a cow she was- just a big stupid cow-“, treating her the way he describes her. (That Quote is also Verbal Irony)
- But...not enough evidence because he could just be overprotective of his property or as Vickers stated before there is a hole in the Box-Stall that one of his horses sprained his ankle there, so it could be a safety hazard that he is trying to protect the boy from.

Inner Conflict
• “...When i brought my money out I saw the woman's eyes light greedily a second as if her instincts of hospitality were struggling against some urgent need.”
Inner struggle of the woman who really needs the money and maybe thinking about stealing but her conscious tells her otherwise.
“They’ll be more there for sure,” I said aloud, more to encourage myself than Tim.”
The main character is trying to reassure himself of his journey as it wears on and he loses faith in its success.
• “I began to dread the miles home again almost as much as those still ahead…”
Again, he is struck by fear and is questioning the position he has put himself in.
• “I felt a clutch of fear at my throat, but I didn’t move… It held me. It held me rooted, against my will. I wanted to run from the stable, but i wanted even more to see inside the stall. Wanting to see and yet afraid of seeing.”
The main character is having the dilemma of what exactly to do as he is afraid of the man whose farm he is at and what is in the stable. He has to get his calf back but is fighting not to be overcome by fear.
• “It didn’t seem right, accepting hospitality this way from a man trying to steal your calves, but theft, I reflected, surely justified deceit. I held my hands out to the warmth and asked if I could help.”
Main character is having a moral struggle as he wants to get his calves back but knows doing so without repaying the man is morally wrong. Also questioning if he is safe accepting such good deeds from a man who robbed him of his calves.
• “Even if I did get inside the box-stall to see the calves was he going to stand back then and let me start off home with them? Might it not more likely frighten him, make him do something desperate.”
Once again the main character is in fear for his safety, he is debating through all the obstacles he’d face if he made his escape. He is questioning whether to recover the calves at all and if he does take the calves back what repercussions will it have on himself
The 'hook' is introduced right away; the thirteen year old narrator must go by himself to retrieve two yearlings that wandered off in a storm
The story, however, draws a temporary lull with the narrator goes door to door, looking for the yearlings. This is the point where the reader may have been tempted to put the story down.
This part is over after about a page, thankfully, and the reader's curiosity is piqued once again with the introduction of Vickers.

The narrator's description of Vickers does its job of making the story seem more interesting. He isn't forthcoming when the narrator quetions him about the yearlings, and displays erratic behaviour without explaination. This is instantly compelling, especially when he gives the odd description of his 'girl'. The reader is led to believe that Vickers is housing the yearlings in the boarded up stall due to the narrator's suspicions.


The ending, too, is an object of curiosity. It is slightly ambiguous and only gives a hint of what was really in the stall, since the cows return the night prior to the narrator's return. Assuming the writer's intent was for the reader to put the story of the girl who 'went away' and how nervous Vickers was about his stall being opened, it can be assumed that Vickers murdered her. But, given that there is no solid conclusion, it still leaves the reader curious about the stall's contents.

What is a Dramatic Question?
A dramatic question is a method used to arouse readers interest throughout the story.
It is the questions that come to a readers mind throughout the story and keeps them reading.
These dramatic questions build an element of suspense which adds a form of curiosity.
Dramatic questions that may come to a readers mind throughout the story:

In the beginning of the story, when the boys Aunt Ellen allows him to spend the night looking for the yearlings. Readers may question what will happen on his search? Will he find the two yearlings? What hardships will he face?
Later in the story, the plot unfolds, the boy finds his two caves in Arthur Vickers shed but Vickers claim there his. Readers may assume that the caves belong to the boy and question, Will the boy recapture his caves? Do the caves actually belong to Vickers?
When Vickers agrees to let the boy and Tim stay awhile, readers may question what will happen during his stay? Is Vickers insane?

Towards the end, the boy becomes desperate to find his calves, he puts up a fight with Vickers and readers learn that Vickers truly is crazy. Readers may ask, will the boy escape? Are his caves in the stall?
At the end of the story, the dramatic questions continue when Aunt Ellen confesses that their caves came home themselves, meaning that they weren't in Vickers stable. The most mysterious questions arise, what was in the stall? and Why was Vickers so secretive if the calves were not in it?
Dramatic Conflict
What is dramatic conflict?
Dramatic conflict is the dramatic climax of a story
It is often described as the mainspring of simple fiction and drama
"With a crafty tilt of his head he leered.
‘You didn’t see any calves. And now, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll be on your way.’”
“’You’re trying to steal them,’ I flared rashly. ‘I’ll go home and get my uncle and the police after you- then you’ll see whether they’re our calves or not.’”
This is the initial conflict: the fact that the boy has lost his calves and believes that the man (Vickers) has stolen them.

“I was afraid, but not too afraid. ‘If it’s just a harness room,’ I said recklessly,
‘why not let me see inside? Then I’ll be satisfied and believe you.’”
The boy continues to protest that the man has stolen his calves and does not stop accusing him
“Just as I dropped to my knees to peer through the opening Vickers seized me. I struggled to my feet and fought for a moment, but it was such a hard, strangling clutch at my throat that I felt myself go limp and blind. In desperation then I kicked him, and with a blow like a reflex he sent me staggering to the floor. But it wasn’t the blow that frightened me. It was the fierce, wild light in his eyes.”


He stays the night so that he can break into the barn and find them but the one opportunity that arises, he gets caught by Vickers and gets into a fight
“I looked up at her.
‘But the stall, then- just because I wanted to look inside he knocked me down- and if it wasn’t the calves in there-'
She didn’t answer…”
When he returns home, he discovers that the calves returned home the night before… makes the reader question what Vickers was hiding in the stable if it was not the calves
Question
What do you think is the biggest dramatic question in Sinclair Ross’
One’s a Heifer
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