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Write a Practical Criticism of the First Chapter of ‘Devices and Desires’. Consider in particular how PD James creates suspense and drama

PD James’ strength is creating complex and believable characters that fill the book. Her plots are imaginative and subtly hidden in the story. We read and delve deeper into the characters minds and motives. The suspense is superbly built up with a realized sense of time and place. In the first chapter of ‘Devices and Desires’ we see how the drama and suspense is brought to a climax and used to great affect in creating interest and mystery.The style of writing, which does not stay at the same tone throughout the chapter, really adds to the whole drama and intensity of the story. In the opening passage PD James uses direct and factual language giving a lot of information rapidly, “Valerie Mitchell, aged fifteen years, eight months and four days.” This very specific and accurate presentation of facts is very much reminiscent of a news report or police statement that is the extent of the detail involved. The tone is cold and calculated with no compassion as the narrator as it were who is re-telling the events give no indication of any emotion; PD James may have consciously not included any vocabulary that would have made the narrator seem emotionally attached with the event. For example the narrator recalls, “she died” not she tragically was brutally murdered. The narrator observes every part of the plot and chilling recalls the murder it almost seems as the killer is the narrator stalking his victim as PD James makes it possibility only revealing information that will enhance the mystery and suspense. As it is in third person with someone telling the story it seems Valerie is an object being talked of and later on she becomes the subject. I feel this is the case due to the lack of speech at the start. But later there is more speech and interaction with other characters.The suspense and drama are built up with subtle changes in sentence structure and the crafty use of language. As at the beginning there is a long sentence packed with information giving a rushed affect and almost excitement. This in my view builds up drama as the reader is over roared with detail and anxiously waits to discover what happened and do not want to accept these cold facts that are given to them. Later in the first chapter the sentences get shorter and dis-jointed giving a feel of awkwardness. The use of subtle words like, “horror” and “screamed” in a different context to what the reader is expecting builds up suspense as you think that Valerie will die any time theses words come up but she does not raising the suspense. The soft touches in the word choice incredibly grab you attention.For example “This was the end”, is very ambiguous as it could mean the end of Valerie or the end of her social life, but it is only ambiguous because the opening line already told us that Valerie will die. Also later in the chapter these subtle hints begin to get stronger, “My dad’ul kill me” and some irony , “I’ll be safe” really pushes you to believe Valerie may not die even though you know she does. This makes the incident more heart-wrenching as you begin to feel sympathetic towards her as she has done no wrong. Also some personification is entailed into the writing with fear becoming alive. There is some use of simile, “brightly lit ship sank out of sight” but the deeper meaning of this imagery is that it is a lost cause and little hints like this occur regularly and add to a more dramatic and sinister undertone to the passages, with the repetition of the murders echoed everywhere that Valerie goes also adding suspense.The opening line, “The Whistler’s fourth victim”, gives away the fact that he character who we later know as Valerie will be murdered. It makes me think why has PD James revealed such information. It does not follow the norm of a typical horror story. Usually the suspense is built up and we do not know for certain a person will die but soon workout the structure of the story, this opening chapter is very different in that sense. In my view this vital difference builds up more suspense than if PD James did not tells us Valerie would be killed. As we knew that Valerie would die throughout the opening chapter, we are left wondering when and how the killer will strike.The formation of the main character, who is Valerie in the first chapter, really creates more drama. At first we are alerted that the character will die, but as the passage proceeds past the factual data and we get to know the person not just the, “victim”, we form a bond and end up wishing and thinking she will survive. When she doe get killed we still feel a sense of loss even though it was inevitable. This is because the way Valerie is portrayed through the writing. Also the extra information we are given about her and her relationship with her father, “domestic tyranny”, and he, “treated her like a child” all make the ordeal more personal for the reader and creates an uneasy atmosphere.By making Valerie a victim makes it more shocking as she is trying to go home after a night out just like any other teenager and she is innocent and has not done anything wrong. In my view this is influential in our perception of the character and PD James may have intended this to be the case as then we would not just glance over and take in that the Whistler had another victim, but get involved by knowing what the victims background was and the events leading up to the murder. Also the drama of the first chapter increases with Valerie interacting with other characters, this creates a false sense of security for us and the character as we assume she is safe as she is in the company of two old people. But due to the dramatic irony that we know she will die we suspect everyone who she comes into contact with of being the Whistler.The build up of suspense and creation of drama is added upon with the continuing tension of when the killer will strike. PD James has structured the first chapter extremely well with underlying messages and calculated word choice giving a true suspense being added on all the time to the inevitable climax of the murder. Even though it is known that the character will die, we are still intrigued and our attention is kept by the tone and descriptive telling of the event.

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