When the Wasps Drowned
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In ‘when the wasp drowned’ and ‘the darkness out there’ the theme of death is presented within the characters and the twisted storyline. A number of techniques such as symbolism, tone and narrative are used to portray these themes to the reader. In ‘when the wasps drowned’ Eveline is portrayed as being mature and protective over her siblings and more importantly the truth of the ring. In ‘the darkness out there’ Mrs Rutter is at first seen to be a typical old lady who has a dark secret. Within both stories there is a strong contrast of characterisation and the overall voice of the story which can create an impact on the reader in different ways, also in both stories there is a lot of similarities and contrasts of how this is presented. In when the wasps drowned the contrast in characterisation and the tone is quite evident. Firstly the story is written in first person by Eveline and it seems that it is almost some sort of a memory. The style of writing is fairly sparse and not a lot of detail is given to the story which makes the contrast seem darker and the shock of the story seems greater. As a result it could be suggested that this is done because Eveline doesn’t want people to know about her past in great detail this is backed up by the fact when she “fiddle unconsciously with the ring” so it suggests to the reader that She does have some sort of guilt within her.
Also when she says that “we better fill up the hole” it can convey that she is trying to hide something and keep it to the back of her mind. In addition throughout the story there is a dull neutral tone as the narrator simply tells us what happened without comment apart from when she speaks about Therese’s dream. This leaves the reader feeling unaware of what effect the events have taken on her; it also gives a chilling mood to the story for example right at the end of the story after being questioned Eveline takes her siblings “by the hand…into the sunlight of the garden. This creates another sense of fear to the reader as it is frankly shocking how Eveline can be so cool and calm about this whole event. Also the reader first gets an insight into the actual voice of the story when after the opening the phrase “that was the summer” is put with “they dug up Mr Mordecai’s garden” this makes the reader start to be aware of the fact that all may not be what it seems and the story suddenly takes a sharp turn into a very different direction to what the reader seems to think it may be.
So there is also a contrast on the predetermined tone of the story and it’s characters. Another example is also straight after this it says “we heard her screams from inside” and again you become more aware and the preconceived notion that you have about the story changes and your mind immediately thinks about whose screams it could be. The main contrast in characterisation that runs in the story is the loss of innocence and childhood. This is first conveyed when the narrator talks about the summer “bringing an end to our barefoot wanderings” the idea of barefoot wanderings symbolises childhood and freedom; everything that a child should be living through but in this case these children don’t and that summer actually brought an end to their childhood and freedom. Another example is when Tyler is playing with his toy truck and “smiles at the rattle of its metal wheels” immediately you feel almost warm inside after listening to this as evokes memories of your own childhood and this provides a stark contrast to the realism of this story.
Childish behaviour is depicted when the children ask Eveline to help them “dig to Australia” which is somewhat of a childish pursuit this makes the reader feel sympathetic towards the children as it can suggest that they are trying to escape and the contrast of the murder seems even more great and shudder at the thought of the current situation. Again the innocence being lost is shown when Eveline who is physically a child sees the dead body and has no regard for it at all this is depicting to the reader that Eveline has no sort of compassion and it could be implied that this is because she hasn’t been given any herself this idea could be confirmed when she is seeking for her mother’s attention and longs for her comforting voice after Therese’s dream. In the dream it is illustrating to the reader that this is actually affecting Therese emotionally it provides a contrast between the subconscious and the real world so it shows the reader that she carries on as normal during the day but at night it affects her much more than she realises. Another thing that seems a bit odd is that none of the children have any sort of curiosity towards the body which is something most children would have instilled in them, this can be another contrast in characterisation as particular characteristic of a child should be part of the norm; for example when Therese is asked for the ring she gives it to Eveline without any sort of questioning.
In addition Therese has no remorse as she is crushing the wasp corpses which can also be considered as a clue to the story as it can symbolise death and it is uncanny that Therese is scared. Maturity is another theme in the story related to the characterisation and this is primarily with Eveline. We are first given a reference to this when she is “hungry for conversation” with the old ladies: this depicts to the reader that she is desperate for more mature influences. Along with this she is shown to Also when she is “tall enough to look over the garden walls” this shows that she is growing up and trying to break away as the garden is also described as being “confining” which can illustrate the garden as being like a prison. Her maturity is also confirmed when she is shown to be “barefoot on the lino… washing up” which is something you’d expect from an adult not a pre-teen child. Eveline displays the characteristics of an adult especially when she on numerous occasions trying to take control for example she hoses the wasps off Therese in an instant also when she leads the children back to the garden; Eveline as a result is trying to take the role of her mother and trying to shield her sibling from anything that could harm them mentally and physically.
In addition this could be the reason why Eveline doesn’t build up the murder and covers up the hole as she was in denial and still tries to keep her control with brushing away the ring to hide any evidence. Eveline is one minute shown to act too old for playing with the children and she fashions herself her own bikini (which is quite a mature item of clothing, maybe this could be to make her feel older) and the next she is shown to stop talking about the body and is in rejection as a result. Lastly a contrast to her mature self is that she needed confirmation when she found the body by asking for a torch this shows that she doesn’t have the amount of maturity needed to make her own judgement and follow her instincts Penelope Lively succeeds in illustrating a contrast in characterisation and voice in “The Darkness Out There” this is especially evident with the portrayal of Mrs Rutter. Her character is developed in many ways, with clues early on to her true self. Sandra’s views on the characters change by the end; also Kerry is seen to change his character. At the end of the story it is Kerry who takes the initiative by keeping his morality of the situation and passing his judgement on Mrs Rutter.
“In Sandra’s eyes he had grown; he had got older and larger…” One of the ways Mrs Rutter’s character is portrayed by Penelope Lively is through her environment, both historically and geographically. The house is introduced sending out two different messages. One is that of a quaint homely place. This can be recognized through the descriptions of the china ornaments, “big-eyed flop-eared rabbits and beribboned kittens and flowery milkmaids and a pair of naked chubby children wearing daisy chains”. Firstly, this gives the impression of a cuddly ‘grandmother’ figure, but then the picture is broken with the mention of the “smell of cabbage”. This comment conflicts with the otherwise friendly scene to suggest something is not write. The house reflects Mrs Rutter’s character. An example of this is “her eyes investigated quickly as mice”. Later, the house mirrors this comment by the author describing that it “smelt of damp and mouse”. Animals and flowers are frequently mentioned in the description of the ornaments and her love of plants, “You should see the wood in spring, with all the bluebells”.
This constant reference to nature implies there is a link with Mrs Rutter, for nature is changeable and not always as it seems. There is also evidence to suggest she is an old lady whose mind is still stuck in the past, such as her collection of “old calendars and pictures torn from magazines”. This could again portray the contrast in her character. The effect of what Mrs Rutter says and does also reveals sides of her character. She welcomes Kerry and Sandra into her house. But rite at the beginning there is a contrast in description, “a creamy smiling pool of a face in which her eyes snapped and darted” sounds friendly and comforting but subliminally uneasy and then later sinister. She’s a very judgmental woman. She makes Kerry do all the laborious jobs outside; she doesn’t think much of kerry’s ambitions, smiling falsely while he tells her that he wants to work as a car mechanic. She insults him, “well, I expect that’s steady money”. Sugar?” then moves on quickly to a gesture of hospitality, trying to conceal the jibe. She’s patronizing too, with comments like “You’re a little dress maker, too,” and “Chocky?”
She asks Sandra to offer Kerry a chocolate too, but has already forgotten his name “see if what’s-‘s-name would like one?” showing his insignificance in her mind. She also makes the reader feel uneasy, “Mind your pretty skirt, pull it up a bit, there’s only me to see if you’re showing a bit of bum.” This provokes the thought that she has a slightly warped mind. Lively lets us know what others think of Mrs Rutter as Kerry builds a profile on her character when he talks with Sandra, saying that “I don’t go much on her. Sandra encourages him to feel sorry for her by telling him of her tragedy, but he explains that “There’s lots of people done that” dismissing the excuse for her peculiar and disturbing behaviour by implying that she wasn’t the only one to loose somebody in the war. The way Mrs Rutter always watches Sandra and “glinting from the cushions” gives an uneasy feel towards her. Kerry seems alarmed when told that mrs rutter had gone to investigate the plane.
Her twisted side becomes more apparent when she says; “We cheered, I can tell you” as they realized it was German. Sandra is alarmed and quips how awful it was, but Mrs Rutter, who disregards her discomfort, abruptly interrupts her she is so involved in telling the story. She tries to soften what she is saying by ‘sugaring the pill’, for example friendly additives such as “my duck” in contrast to the dark things she was talking about. She refers to the injured man in the broken plane as “that site”. She mentions nothing about the man himself but just remarks how “it wasn’t a pretty site”. She is unmoved when the German was crying “mutter, mutter”. This shows she is a cold, heartless woman. She recollects easily how she left the man in pain because it was raining. This shows she has no feeling of mutual human kindness and doesn’t feel obliged to help. Again, she is not bothered with the fact he is in his late teens. There is a lot of contast between Kerry and mrs rutter both in their voice and their character. Kerry seems to be a typical teenage biy who doeasn’t have a lot going for him so people autamitically think that he is not worth talking to in comparasion to mrs rutter who seems like a sweet old lady with a lot to tell so you would want to talk more with her.
In contrast Kerry seems to be the more sensible and moral character near the end of the story and he takes things a lot more seriously, but mrs rutter as she is nonchalant about the situation and has a warped mind. This makes the reader soon see the truth of both charctors and feel more shocked about how much the contrast is between the exterior and interior of mrs rutter and Kerry. Right from the beginning there had been implicit clues to her nasty inner character, not just from the story she told which revealed it explicitly towards the end. Like her body, her personality is not clear-cut. The author suggests this when she explains “she seemed composed of circles”. Introduced as “a cottage loaf of a woman”, gives the misleading impression of a warm, traditional, safe, chunky, old woman. But following this is another metaphor, “with a face below which chins collapsed one into another,” implicitly meaning she had different guises, she was false and two- faced. That she is someone not to be trusted.
In addition there is large amount of symbolism apparent on the story, this is first started from the title. At first the darkness seems a simple metaphor for the unknown evil in Packer’s End. But at the end of the story, the evil is now known. The darkness is not evil outside in the wood. It is “out there” in the world of human experience, “in your head for ever like lines from a song…it was a part of you and you would never be without it, ever” there is also a contrast with Sandra’s character as at the beginning she seems unassuming about the darkness and wa twisted by mrs rutter but by the end she sees the darkness isn’t just something out of fairy tales and that it can be in people too Within the two stories there are many contrasts and similarities one of which is that there is a shocking ending with each story. One similarity is that there is one character in each story that has mixed personalities. With Mrs Rutter in “the darkness out there” on the exterior she seems like a sweet old lady but within this she seems to have hidden a twisted secret inside.
This also falls short with Eveline from “when the wasps drowned” who is a child who craves the characteristics of a mature adult even though she is mentally not ready and jumps from a child to adult as a result of holding such a dark secret. A contrast is that in the darkness out there is a lot of dialogue and the colloquial language used adds to the ordinariness of the setting in contrast to the horror of the story which makes the reader feel more in shock: on the other hand in when the wasps drowned the writing is sparse which contrasts with the harsh reality of the tragic event that takes place In conclusion I think both writers have used a range of innovative techniques and language devices to make the stories more shocking to the reader. In ‘when the wasp drowned ‘the stark contrast of innocence being snatched from the children creates a chilling tone throughout the story along with the usage of first person of Eveline looking back on her childhood. By having the whole language in a colloquial manner we have an incredible insight to Sandra’s thoughts and feelings and I like the fairy-tale like setting in the story as it provides a greater difference between reality and a dream like world. As a result of these techniques I think an evident contrast in characterisation and tone is presented to the reader in a consistent manner