In the novel “Paradise of Blind”, Duong Thu Huong creates plenty of suspense in many different situations and scenarios throughout the novel using the basic suspenseful elements. Suspense is when the audience or the reader is excited while reading the book and anxious to see what happens next, it is what keeps the reader interested and attracted to the book. David Lodge presents a chapter called “Suspense” which talks about the elements of suspense, especially how writers create them. Most of the ways of creating suspense comes through the delay of answers. Whatever it’s medium-words, film, strip-cartoon – holds the the interest of an audience by raising questions in their minds, and delaying the answers”(Lodge, 14). The delay of answers being revealed to the reader for the purpose of suspense is split into two kinds: short term and long term.
The short term kind is the more common kind, in terms of how often it occurs in the book. It starts from the very first line of the first chapter, “VERY ILL. COME IMMEDIATELY”(Huong, 11). This is the very beginning of the book, no introduction to the characters have been made yet, no context has been given yet. From here the reader can only continue to read to see what is going on, who’s the one feeling ill and who is that person talking to.
The short term kind of suspense is like at the very end of the first chapter, when Hang didn’t even know her father name, then she narrates the end of the chapter by saying “I was almost ten years old when I learned about my father” (Huong, 18). The last line of the chapter hints that the next chapter of the novel will be a flashback talking about her father and her family in the past, which is significant for her, especially learning about her father Ton. Doing that keeps you curious about what will happen next, and what Hang is going to discover about her father and the life they had before with her father present. This is the short term kind because you are interested in finding out what will happen and it will be revealed in the near future will reading the novel.
The second kind of Suspense is more long term, and it’s something that will attract you for things to come later in the book. Criminal Investigation series do this the most, they would have a murder case in investigation and they give you chances to guess who the murderer is. They keep the show suspenseful to keep guessing and wondering who it could be and you continue watching to see who the reveal. An example of the long term suspense is when Hang is going onto the train heading to the city of Moscow in Russia, “I brushed against a Russian woman with blonde permed hair. She glared at me, and I apologized. Was my voice too soft? Hadn’t she heard me? She continued on her path as if she didn’t see me,”(Huong,15). This shows how much the Russians belittle the Vietnamese, even when they share the same age. Then Hang starts to realize how things are in Russia, “I caught a glimpse of my own reflection in the window: a pale young woman with a lost, worried expression, stooped shoulders, and cheap maroon wool suit.”(Huong, 16). This is her comparing her appearance to the Russian woman that she bumped into, and it is when she realizes that she stands out in Moscow amongst the Russians, and she realizes that she will continue to be dealt with like how the Russian woman treated her. This creates suspense because it gives the reader an idea of the kinds of struggles she will face in Moscow, in addition to the ones she is already facing with her uncle being sick. Because of this the reader will continue to read for chapters to come, anxious to find how she faces these challenges and how she overcomes them.
In conclusion, suspense is a tool that the writer uses to maintain the excitement of the novel till the end. It keeps the thrill of the novel there, and keeps the reader curious to find out what happens next. The writer would leave out some information, which results in questions that come up in the reader’s mind, and the answers to those questions are not given immediately, so the reader continues reading to satisfy his thoughts.
Lodge, David. The art of fiction. Vintage, 2011.
Hương, Dương Thu. Paradise of the Blind. Trans. Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. New York: Perennial, 2002. Print.