Earl’s comments in Powder Blue

Lit.Modern 145D

October 23, 1998

Suspense of the Unknown

The question that caught my attention during the section was what part of the stories by Cornell Woolrich was suspenseful? Focusing on Rendezvous in Black, the one answer the a person put forward was the why. Why would someone hunt down these people and kill their loved ones? It is just too easy to call the murder mad

[Of course, he is, but you’re right, that doesn’t tell us anything.]. That is not enough. Calling the person mad and then ignoring his reasoning is tanadamant [This is not a word in English. Which one were you thinking of?] to calling off the investigation. That was what Inspector Cameron was trying to do the whole time [your antecedent makes this mean that what Cameron was trying to do the whole time was to call off the investigation], figure out the murderer’s motive.


[Who is „we“? Avoid using it unless you are refering to a clearly delinated group] all knew that the killer had to be mad, and while the connection between killing and madness is debatable, we had solid proof [?? How did „we“ have „solid proof“ of such a connection? Proof (if it involves „us“ who are reading the book, in a world outside that text) is really inconceivable. You can only have proof of the truth or inaccuracy of a situation if the situation exists or occurred. Nothing occurs in novel and none of the characters exist, therefore we cannot gather „proof.“]. A man does not wander around the same drug store for a year or two, waiting for his dead fiancée to show up because he has time on his hands [Don’t build evidence to an argument you already dismissed as too obvious to pursue. Decide on your argument and make it one that needs advancing. Marr’s sanity doesn’t need any investigation.]. There is definitely something wrong with this guy. Of course when we learn the reasoning behind the killer’s choice of victims we think, maybe he’s right [There’s that „we“ again, and scary one it is – why do „we“ think the killer may have been „right“ to kill five innocent strangers?]. He might be mad, but he might also be incredibly intelligent. Jumping ahead to Inspector Cameron’s deduction involving the fiancée’s death and the overhead plane’s course, the killer just might be a very intelligent man(this would disprove the assumption that the killer is just some average joe off the street who tried his hand at murder)[ We never thought he was an „average joe.“ Woolrich writes this in an atmosphere that really does not invite wondering too deeply about characterization. It’s not a realistic story.]


I agree with the notion that the why does have a part of the suspense, but it is only a minor part in relation to the how

[Great point! And you should tie this in closer to the first one. Very good direction here!]. We do all know by the second chapter who the killer is going to kill. The third chapter only cements this fact; and while we can do know [„can do know“?] generally who is going to die, we don’t always know how he is going to do it [good]. What ruse is he going to use to catch the victim unaware? That is what got my attention. I almost forgot that these were real live people he was killing [Guess what? They weren’t] (yes, I know it is a book) and was looking forward to how he got close enough to them to kill them, and then how he would get away.

Switching to the stories in the Reader, Rear Window, and Three O’clock, the suspense is focused a little differently. First in Three o’clock, our suspense does come from our assumption from the inevitable, especially when it becomes the unexpected

[This is an interesting paradox worth expanding: an „unexpected inevitability.“ I like it!]. I mean that it is interesting when the man is plotting to blow up the wife, but it is more suspenseful, when we see him struggling in his bonds waiting for the bomb to blow. We are waiting for this man who has brought about his own fait[sp], and watching to see if he escapes, each chance slipping through his fingers [More about the forced confrontation with the specific moment of the limit of human life]. We wait for each minute to pass by, which we cannot count ourselves, and that is suspenseful as well. We know that the final minute is coming but we cannot know before the condemned man tells us [The condemned man can’t tell you.The moment is the one at which he becomes unable to do anything again. The executioner can tell you.].

In Rear Window, the suspense is more subtle. It is not at a continual high like in the last two stories

<[But it certainly has its moments]. There are moments, such as when Sam is sent to check out the murderer’s house, or the ending in which Hal is finally confronted by the murderer. It [antecedent?] relies more on the voyeuristic tendencies that people have [does depicting them mean that it elicits them more generally ?] (I have yet to meet someone who is not a voyeur [that’s an interesting observation, you should say more]), and instead delivers heavy moments of suspense at certain parts [mixed metaphor]. The rest of the time it is more of a detective novel [It’s not a novel. And texts don’t just switch genres from page to page. More on this later]. Hal’s greatest tool is his deductive powers. This is a good example of how a detective novel can be suspenseful.[I have never meant to suggest that the detective genre and the suspense genre were mutually exclusive]

I find it strange that all these books were written by the same person [which „all these“? two short stories and a novel?], when the use of suspense was used [redundant „the use of suspense was used] to differently in each one [that’s what makes a good writer]. Then again perhaps I should just applaud Cornell Woolrich and his ability to use suspense to make the story more interesting [It’s medium and the signifying system of the stories themselves, not a quality added on. The stories wouldn’t be „less interesting“ without their suspense – they wouldn’t be stories at all.]. Suspense does not need to be used in succession [English: you only have one noun here, how can it be „used in succession all by itself? And what do you mean „used“?] , it can be spread out to its maximum effect [where are you seeing this principle applied? And this is a mixed metaphor, not a lucid critical description.] . It is the author[‚]s choice as to what he [or she] wants to make the audience feel (even if they do not go along with his [or her] intentions [or even know what those intentions may have been]). The short stories are examples of suspenseful moments going off at just the right moment [moments that go off at a moment? A little metaphysical.]. The book [novel – use the adult words] had more of the effect of keeping the reader on his or her toes [which reader was that? Do not use an imaginary reader as a basis for an argument.]. We could see that it was going to happen [antecedent: ‚“it“what was going to happen and who is this „we“?] , and it had to happen before the end of the chapter [what did?]. We just didn’t know how, and that seems to be the big draw in for suspense [this is a walk in outer space, this is], the not knowing. Not knowing how the killer kills [or the singer sings, or the dancer dances . . . ], or if he will survive [who are „we“ talking about?], or if he will get away with it forever. The unknown element in the text is what makes it suspenseful, or at least more interesting [some movements toward an interesting and sophisticate argument. I look forward to your building and honing them.].





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