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Examination, Lesson 3

    characters sitting at the table. Each passing moment deepens the agony as the reader waits for the blast or the discovery of the bomb—that climactic moment when the suspense ends and the rising action falls toward resolution. The writer Robert Ludlum said, “Suspense always attracts people. It’s putting somebody into an enormous conflict and watching him extricate himself or be subdued” (qtd. in Rockwell 15). John Grisham’s popular legal thriller The Firm presents such a conflict. After young attorney Mitch McDeere is lured by a law firm’s incredible employment offer, he finds himself in a surreal landscape of disappearing partners, shady dealings, and intimidation. Much of the story’s appeal is in its realistic elements and psychological suspense as the protagonist struggles to unravel the deceptions in a search for truth. This type of suspense focuses as much on the character’s anxiety or uncertainty as on physical conflict with other characters. The reader can imagine the events actually happening to such a young man and feeling as conflicted as he does. Clearly, suspense and conflict are entwined. We are all familiar with high-action suspense stories where characters attack one another. “The Dangerous Game” is an example that combines both psychological and physical suspense. Conflicts pitting protagonist against the setting or nature also abound, in such stories as “To Build a Fire” by Jack London. Novels by writers like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, on the other hand, often feature elements that border on the supernatural. The events are less realistic, but readers are drawn to the fierce spiritual, mythic, or supernatural struggle between good and evil. Although the conflict involves the cosmic level, the best suspense stories in this vein also incorporate serious themes, such as the nature of faith and of love. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is an example of an allegory that combines psychological and supernatural suspense. Writers often combine different types of suspense, though their stories will have a dominant one related to the central conflict or problem. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, for example, is a movie about an injured photojournalist and his beautiful girlfriend who witness what they believe is a murder by another tenant. Although there’s physical suspense included, psychological suspense reigns supreme. Hitchcock’s The Birds, on the other hand, features elements that are more supernatural as thousands of birds terrorize a town.
    Examination, Lesson 3 103

    Step 5. Reread both “Hunters” and “Cask” at least once more, noting increases in suspense, the type of suspense, and the way each author develops the suspense.

    For Part 1, write 350 to 500 words analyzing the use of suspense in “Hunters” and “Cask.” Compare and contrast the authors’ techniques, referring to specific points in each story to support your explanation of how and where the suspense occurs. Begin the first paragraph of your essay with a one-sentence statement identifying which story you found more suspenseful and your reason(s) for that choice. Be sure to work through the writing process outlined on pages 12–15 in your textbook, use the MLA format for textual and works-cited documentation, and apply standard written conventions. Note: Do not turn in Part 1 at this time. You must submit all four parts together.

    In this guide, review the explanation for each of the following elements of literature: rising/falling action, climax, conflict and dilemma, allegory, characterization, and point of view. In the textbook, review the following chapter introductions as well:
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    Pages 103–111: “Plot and Structure” Pages 161–165: “Characterization” Pages 188–194: “Theme” Pages 227–233: “Point of View” Pages 274–285: “Symbol, Allegory, and Fantasy”