Easily Mistaken Imagine, a killer is on the loose in your own town and he is known for murdering young woman in the ravine that splits the town in half. You and your friends decide to go see a movie and you know that by the time that you get out it will be dark and you’ll have to walk down the ravine to your house all alone, which earlier that day your own friend was found dead in, what do you do? This is the decision Lavinia Nebbs is faced with in the book Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.
Many elements in the story create lots of suspense; three would be setting, foreshadowing and characterization. The setting played a huge role in the success of the suspense in the story. Since the ravine where the bodies were found split the town, Lavinia was forced to cross it to get home since she decided to not stay with her friends and her safety was questioned. “The ravine was deep black and black black! And the world was gone behind, the world of safe people in bed, the locked doors, the town, the drugstore, the theater, the lights, everything was gone” (73).
The words used to describe this dark, lonely ravine makes the reader feel as if they were right there standing with Lavinia seeing, hearing and feeling everything that’s going on, along with what’s in her head. It’s scary to think of being alone with not a soul in sight and knowing that there’s possibly a killer out there just waiting. “Lavinia Nebb walked alone down the midnight street, down the late summer silence. She saw houses with dark windows and far away heard a dog barking” (72).
This is also a good example of the description of the setting because the reader can tell how alone she really was do to no one else in town wanting to go out at night with the Lonely One roaming around. It sounds almost like Lavinia is in a deserted town with just her and the ravine. The way Bradbury incorporated nature into the setting also gave it a little more of a spooky feel. “The crickets were listening. The night was listening to her. For a change all of the far summer-night meadows and close summer trees were suspending motion” (75). This use of personification creates a feeling of uncertainty for the reader.
The way that he gives the plants and animals human like qualities and says they are “listening” to her makes the night sound even more gloomy and eerie. The use of foreshadowing also helped to create suspense in the story. At the beginning of the story when the neighbors said “Won’t catch us out on no night like this, not with the Lonely One strangling women. Lock ourselves up in our closets with a gun” (64). It gives the reader a little bit of an idea of what might come up in the story, even though the Lonely One only usually strikes once a month and their friend Elizabeth was already found that day.
Also knowing that Lavinia will be walking home alone, it causes the reader to worry if she’ll make it home alive or not. Then when they were all at the theater and the manager asks them to leave as soon as the movie was over sounded a little suspicious as well. “The police have asked us to close early tonight so everyone can be out at a decent hour” (69). This shows that even the police know that anything is possible with a murderer and they don’t just have a specific time that they can or can’t commit a murder so they want everyone in town to be safe. Yet even this doesn’t stop Lavinia from wanting to walk home alone.
The ladies didn’t listen to the manager either, instead of going straight home they stopped by the drug store on the way. “Man sitting at the counter watched you walk out. Said to me ‘Who’s that? ’ Why that’s Lavinia Nebbs, prettiest maiden lady in town, I said” (69). The store manager also told Lavinia and her friends that the stranger asked where she lived and he told him where. It’s assumable that this stranger could quite possibly be the Lonely One and even with that thought in mind Lavinia still decides she’ll be okay walking alone with full knowledge that a stranger, possibly a killer, knows where she’ll be.
The last element that created suspense in the story was characterization. The main character Lavinia was portrayed as a fearless, risk taker, who’s overly confident and has no common sense. She felt too safe in a town with a murderer running around and her careless actions could have cost her life. “’It’s early. Lonely One won’t be out til’ late. ’” (65). This is a quote from Lavinia herself, which alone proves her stupidity. A murderer doesn’t just have a certain time that they check to see and make sure it’s not too late or early, if they want to kill someone they’ll do it no matter the time.
It wasn’t smart of her to just assume that he wouldn’t be out early, especially if it was still dark even though it wasn’t that late in the day. “‘Lonely One won’t kill three ladies,’ said Lavinia, ‘There’s safety in numbers’” (68). She uses the saying “there’s safety in numbers” when she knows eventually she would be walking alone, therefore she completely contradicts herself. Just to be walking down a ravine alone at night takes no common sense let alone doing it when your own friend just got murdered there and a stranger asked who you are and where you live.
She also puts on a fearless act when she’s around her friends but when it came down to her being alone and scared her thoughts ate away at her. “‘Oh bosh the police,’ laughed Lavinia, ‘I’m not afraid of anything’” (70). She says that she isn’t afraid but the second she’s walking alone down the ravine she catches herself almost running down the steps and swears that she hears someone following her. She then even starts praying to God, and panicking, saying that she’ll never do that again if he just lets her live. Yet when she was with her friends it was as if there was nothing wrong at all.
The fact that the story takes place in a town split by a ravine, the hints that the author gives, and how the main character Lavinia changes her attitude completely throughout the story created suspense in Dandelion Wine. The ravine was scary because it was so dark, long and empty, also the murders had been committed in it. The foreshadowing the author used put different thoughts in the reader’s mind of who could be the killer and if Lavinia was going to be the next victim. Also, the decisions she made by not staying with her friends and walking home alone made you wonder if she would even make it there..
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