Thursday, February 18, 2010

There is an Art to the Building Up of Suspense

The title to this post is a line from Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and the ballads we read I think are perfect examples of this. The ballads have a jaunty cadence to them, and often start off with a light hearted setting and mood. By the end, however, the reader (or listener) is left with a grave, ominous ending that seems to completely contradict the flow of the verses. In "Alonzo the Brave, and Fair Imogene," we are left with a woman who has forsaken her promises doomed to be taken to her former lover's grave. In "Mary," we are left with an innocent, well respected barmaid seeing the corpse of her love, one she loved despite being told she shouldn't.

The biggest reason these endings are so perverse is that in many other settings, the woman loving the man despite social conventions or the maiden promising to wait for her knight have hopeful and promising connotations and endings. But here, in the jolliest of meters, there is no such brevity. Thus, we are left unsure whether to continue to clap along to the rhythm of the jingle or to weep at the misery of the story. It's definitely a powerful writing style.

1 comment:

  1. I think the juxtaposition of a light meter and a heavy subject serve to strengthen the impact of the message. It also adds to the sinister nature, by in a sense serving to trivialize the death and destruction that accompanies the broken promise. This makes the promise and the poem that much scarier and resonant.