What techniques does Thomas Hardy use to make this story seem like a ‘true’ ghost story, and not just a fantasy? Hardy uses many lingual techniques to create a very genuine and authentic feel to the story, as opposed to a fantasy. When Hardy begins the story, it becomes apparent almost immediately that it is written informally. This creates a conversational link between the text and the reader, allowing the reader to become directly involved with the events held within. To further include the reader, Hardy uses examples of street names, and names of other places and people, assuming that we are already familiar and acquainted with them.
Also, the dialect used in the story is of “Old English” style, which makes the story much more relevant and believable. This allows the short story to feel much more realistic. Hardy has cleverly pioneered a timeline into the story, which helps to add to its genuine feel. We find that the story takes place over a few days, rather than that of an average normal ghost story, usually consisting of just a ‘one-night’ event only. For example, we see that the story begins on Sunday, “Well, one Sunday…. “. Then time changes as the week progresses, “During the week after… “.
Also, we notice that another day is involved as we progress from the Midsummer Night, to the day where William dies. I think that including dates and times such as this help to make the story to seem very, very real compared to an imaginary fantasy. Hardy has included all the main characteristics of a ghost story, in ‘The Superstitious Man’s Story’. The main elements of a ghost story usually consist of the use of churches, death, dreams, old houses, dark atmosphere, ghosts, strange late night occurrences and legends. As we read the story we become aware that each one of these qualities appear in the story at one point.
The church is seen as people go to see the spirits entering and leaving the church porch on Midsummer Night. Death is shown obviously in many forms by William’s death, and also the death of his son which we uncover later on. Dreams can be associated with William sleeping during the story, and the house and dark atmosphere can both be associated with the Privett family home, as it is described in a very eerie fashion. The other points are fairly obvious. By employing these characteristics, Hardy has won the reader over by using the stereotypical elements of a “true” ghost story and not a just fantasy.
The story begins, “William, as you may know…. ” which substantiates the informal link that I fore-mentioned. Hardy then begins to describe the effect that William has upon characters in the story, showing that there are feelings of an ‘unusual presence’ surrounding him, “.. you could feel when he came near ‘ee; and if he was in the house or anywhere behind your back without your seeing him, there seemed to be something clammy in the air, as if a cellar door were open by your elbow”. These properties of William are very much ‘real’ in our normal day-to-day lives, as we all appear to experience such events.
A good example would be of the supernatural kind, where certain authorities in the subject argue that feelings of such moist air and coldness, which force your hair to stand on end, are general properties of a spirit nearby. Having these present in the story creates a first-rate feeling of authenticity. We then discover that the ringing bells at the church “went very heavy all of a sudden”. This is a premonition of the imminent shadow of tragedy which is about to fall upon the story. Another notable use of informality comes when Hardy uses the words “as I say”.
This is something that appears in every day conversation when a person may feel partially distracted. Usually, the conversation will be restarted with sentences like “as I was saying” or to acknowledge the fact that you have repeated yourself, we would pronounce “As I say”. This helps the reader to believe that it is a “true” story by allowing the reader to feel directly involved as there is a feeling of ‘commonness’ to the story, and the reader would find it much easier to understand and to identify with. Hardy then begins to set the scene for what we are about to approach in the story.
He refers to two members of the village as “Mr and Mrs Hardcome”. This demonstrates that the reader knows of the particular individuals mentioned. Informality of this kind is shown once again when Hardy informs us that Mrs Privett is out and that “she met Jim Weedle’s daughter Nancy”. This again could be interpreted as a form of name dropping to support the reliability of the information source. In human nature we use names to allow people to refer to certain places and people quickly, and to allow visualisation of other people and places.
Even many, many years ago, names were given to even early man, in the form of grunts or dog-like barks. Names are an important aspect of our lives, so therefore they are an important aspect of the story. Which as referred to above, as an important point of life, language and culture, they help to introduce a convincing portion of believability. To even greater extend this level of authenticity, Hardy includes information that informs us of basic facts about the surroundings or settings of certain places. For example, we learn that William’s house only has one room to pass through to leave the house from the stairs: “…
this being the only way from the staircase to the outside of the house”. Such information helps to generate more validity in Hardy’s favour as the reader, is slowly becoming aware of the surroundings, which creates a feeling of satisfaction with the area described in the story, therefore the reader will accept it for what it is. Hardy then describes how William comes down the stairs, puts his boots on and passes his wife to leave the house. We then discover that William did not actually leave his bedroom as Betty Privett approaches the stairs and enters the bedroom.
“To her great surprise, and I might say alarm, on reaching the foot of the stairs his boots were standing there as they always stood… ” and “going up to their chamber she found him in bed sleeping as sound as a rock”. There is a small element of confusion which is created here, because immediately after, as the story continues, there is no explanation offered for this event. The reader, puzzled as to what actually happened with William, is left feeling bewildered, therefore the feeling is very real, which must imply that the story is more towards a true ghost story.