The story “Lost Hearts” is written by M. R. James. This short story is bolt unforgettable and intriguing. Within the story M. R. James uses violent descriptions and shows ghostly figures to create tension. Throughout the story unexpected things take place. The reader gets intrigued the author brings the obsession Mr. Abney has with pagans and religions. This put a question into the reader’s minds of why he could be obsessed. We learn about the disappearance of the other two children who have already been in Aswarby Hall, and their ghostly sightings. Soon we realise the third victim will be young cousin Stephen.
The writer shows how large and imposing the house is by, describing the “red-bricked house. ” This is done to create curiosity and interest. The sinister atmosphere within the story gives us an impression that this house is by its self and is isolated. I know this because we are told that “Surrounded by a flat park,” This quote shows that this house is very un-welcoming and is un-easy for a chill to stay in. The atmosphere of Aswarby hall is very strange. The “fires” gives the idea of hell being like a danger. The quote “tall and narrow windows,” gives me that impression that not much light enters the house so it must be very dark inside.
There is a sense of secrecy within the story which makes you feel there is something being hidden inside. M. R. James uses different techniques all through the story. M. R. James describes Abney as being “austere recluse,” ‘elderly. ” This raises issues of why Mr. Abney would want to keep a boy here who is young when Mr. Abney needs looking after himself. Mr. Abney at first seems a kind person to be around but as the story progresses we see a very different and unusual phase of Mr. Abney. The first thing within the story that makes the reader focus more is the fact that Mr. Abney has a very weird desire about asking Stephan the younger cousin how old he is.
When Stephan enters the house the first thing Mr. Abney asks him is “how old are you? ” he repeats himself twice to make sure. This tells us that Mr. Abney needs to know Stephan’s age or a reason. Mr. Abney makes sure that Stephan is twelve by saying “sure it’s twelve? Certain. ” This indicates to us that the author is trying to confuse the reader to show that Mr. Abney has bought Stephan for a reason. In the story there is little known about Mr. Abneys background and where he came from and what he did.
But we are aware of his strange religious practices and obsessions he has with pagan religions. The author grabs the reader’s attention by telling us “Mr. Abney is an expert in Greek, myths and religions, no one knew more of the religious beliefs of the later pagans that did the owner of Aswarby hall,” This fascination with pagan rituals adds to the suspense in the story. This shows the reader that Mr. Abney is an expert in Greek myths and religions. We are told he is a “professor of Greek at Cambridge”. This puts a question into our minds that a professor like Mr. Abney what would he be doing in the middle of the woods all by himself?
Later on we realise that Mr. Abney has a big library all about religions. The writer does this to make us think what has religions got to do with Stephen being here and why has Stephen seen all this? Was Stephen meant to see all these things or was it all a coincident? In many ways there is an opposite of Mr. Abney in the house that is Mrs. Bunch. All the way throughout the story Mrs. Bunch is very naive and gullible. She does not know what is going on. She is also protecting Stephen all the way through. She’s the kindest in the house, at the start of the story she says to Stephen “master’s as kind as a soul as ever I see! This tells us that she respects Mr. Abney and she thinks that he is kind and she does not think that he is strange in any way. However as the story progresses, Stephen has a dream. He tells Mrs. Bunch about it and she gives him advice and tells him to “shut his bedroom window at night. ” This tells us that Mrs. Bunch is an un-certain and is not so sure about Mr. Abney after all. We are also told the Mrs. Bunch tells Stephen not to discuss this issue with Mr. Abney. Another character who also adds mystery to the story is called Mr. Parkes. The reader is not told much about Mr. Parkes expect that he lives down in the cellar.
The strange thing is that why does Mr. Parkes live down in the cellar when there is a big house for him to stay inside, he could stay in one of the rooms in the house. It is very strange that a man lives down in the cellar. The strange thing is that why Mr. Parkes lives the cellar we know this by the quote something is wrong in the cellar: “very like it’s the rats. ” This shows the unusual things going on within the cellar. Mr. Parkes is another strange character like Mr. Abney who does not mix with anyone.
We know this by the quote: “Mr. Parkes… ho has a rule kept himself rather to himself in his own pantry. ” Quickly we learn Mr. Parkes is frightened by the noises in the cellar. The quote “The wind got into the cellars,” shows a sign of something unusual going on in the cellar we don’t know about. Immediately the reader switches to questions of what has the wind got to do with rats talking? Why would the wind sound like rats speaking? This may show a link between the ghostly sightings or Mr. Abney later on. As the plot goes on we find out that two other children have been already been into the house.
Past events with in the story are revealed by Mrs. Bunch. We can tell this by “a boy as he took in out of the street… Seven years back… a girl two years back. ” From this quote we find out that two children are a boy and a girl. The writer indicates to us that the girl was an orphan “as she had no one belonging to her. ” We also find out three weeks later she disappears by the quote no “Track or yet trace of her… had away by them gypsies. ” This tells us that the girl has disappeared within three weeks. This puts a question in our minds of where the girl went. We find out that she has been taken by the gypsies and the girl was a gypsy herself.
Mr. Abney puts the blame on the gypsies when he does not know where she is. He even had all the ponds “dragged” “to show how much he liked her and shows he wants her back desperately. However, James is beginning to alert the reader that Stephen is in growing danger and does not realise that all of this is a trap he is getting himself into. To add suspense the reader realises Mr. Abney chooses his victims carefully because all of them had “No one belonging to them,” This indicates that Mr. Abney is up to something and is planning something really big.
We are told by Mrs. Bunch that a boy was also living in the house. The boy too had no one belonging to him and “he were a foreigner,” This shows that Mr. Abney has brought two children who have no one belonging to them into this weird house. The big major issue is that he does not even know these children properly. As a coincident the girl and boy were both found on a “winter’s day” The two children were both young in age. This tells the reader that both the boy and the girl are orphans like Stephen and they are all young in age. We are told that Mr. Abney asks the other two children how old they are as well.
This surprises the reader because Mr. Abney has already asked Stephen how old he was when he entered the house. What is so special about the age? It adds tension and awkwardness to the story about why Mr. Abney has an obsession about the age of three young children. This then makes the reader realise that Mr. Abney has brought the three children here for a reason and they all are orphans adds even more mystery to the story. Whilst the reader is thinking about the two other children and their disappearance, we are diverted in a different direction and told about an unusual and strange dream that Stephen has.
The way M. R. James describes the dream, you can actually visualise the dream as the text goes along. Stephen had a “curious dream. ” This shows that there is something special about Stephens dream. The author uses a clever technique and makes Stephan dream about something that he has not dreamt about before, yet somehow the dream had become a reality. We know already before that there is a “disused bathroom. It was kept locked,” Already we know that there is something totally wrong happening. This shows that there is something that is being kept a secret and is being hidden away.
Another key element of tension to raise tension is the disturbance within the dream with the strange and mysterious happenings. In the dream Stephen saw “Famous vaults of St. Michels church in Dublin. ” This tells us straight away that he saw a place where dead bodies are kept. This raises a question of why Stephen saw a place that contains dead bodies. Within the dream there are lots of key elements we find out such as “a lead-lined bath. ” This shows us that a body is going to be preserved. The way the body is described gives us a hint that the body is of someone young.
We know this by the quote “A figure inexpressibly thin and pathetic. ” This tells us that t he figure lying in the bath is someone who is actually a young child. The figure in the bath is described as having “a shroud-like garment. ” This tells us that the figure is dressed up like it is about to be buried. The atmosphere gets uneasy and very horrifying when we are told that, “the thin lips crooked into a faint… dreadful smile. ” By this quote we can tell that the body has not been dead for ages and has not been touched for ages. The “corps smile on the face. ” This puts a question in our minds of why the figure is actually smiling.
Is it because the young child knows something we don’t know. In the dream the writer uses the quote “the hands pressed tightly over the region of the heart. ” This shows us that the figure is covering up the place where her heart is. Her hand is pressed tightly because she has no heart and it is a black hole. Later Stephens ripped nightgown makes us question why it was a dream. The rips in his nightgown make us wonder why he has them “to the left side of the chest, long parallel slits,” The ghosts to had deep “black holes” on the left side where their heart should be.
This adds a sense of violence to the story because both Stephen and the ghosts have been attacked on “the left side of the chest” We are reminded again that Stephen is approaching danger. The write includes the dream into the story to make it mysterious. The dream puts two questions in our heads of why is the dream there and if it is real or not and where it also makes us think of the girl and if she exists in real life or is she made up. The moans from the dead body indicate to us that the figure is still alive and is waiting for help form someone.
In the story Stephen wakes up after he dreams and goes to have a check if it is actually real. Whilst he is dreaming “Somebody replaces the curtain quickly. ” This was something within the story that was not supposed to be seen by the reader or Stephen. From this we can tell that somebody is replacing the curtain for a reason and a secret is being hidden from us. The use of language within this story is very important and vivid at times this helps the reader picture what is going on. M. R. James uses “moon” related images to remind the reader ghosts appear with a full moon as a super-natural ingredient.
A “full moon” prepares the reader for the ghostly sightings all around that area. We are told that there is “an evening light”. This highlights to us that the light looks like fire, we know this by the quote “making the windows -pains glows like so many fires” this indicates to us that the house is a as if it was n fire and looks very dangerous. This technique is used to emphasise that this place is very danger for a boy to be near. This creates a sinister atmosphere and how the reader hazardous things happen here. Further more a key element M. R. James uses to create tension is when he says “the wind has fallen”.
At this point a very dramatic and tense moment puts the story in a different turn. This makes the reader think why the wind has stopped the use of the wind creates this affect that the ghost are approaching and are coming near the house. This illustrates that something outrageous is about to materialize. M. R. James gives the story a supernatural element with the ghosts on the full moon we are told that “the spring equinox is approaching” this shows that danger is approaching this also tells us that this is a important date for pagans religions and is of great importance to Mr. Abney.
The new moon also appears at this time. The writer uses sounds to show how the ghosts are still “living” the sounds are warnings. It is like the ghosts that are camped outside the woods and they are waiting their turn. “the wind in the cellars” tells us that the wind is the voices of the people this adds tension and suggest that the ghosts are moving are all over the place the howling wind in the woods adds a “mingling affect” to the story. Also, the images of the two children are foreboding and it sounds as if the ghosts are marching towards the house. The “strange cries” suggests are crying for revenge and for help.
This adds suspense because it is very unlikely for ghostly figures to make noises. The two children are described as a boy and a girl “the girl recalled irresistibly his dream… figure in the bath. This quote has been out in here for a reason so the reader is asked every historical question. These are two children who went missing at the beginning of the story. Through out the story we are shown “endless procession of the unseen people. ” Stephen sees two similar figures outside his bedroom window a girl “with her hand clasped over her heart,” this point out that M. R. James has used repetition in this part of the story.
This is done to emphasis’s the fact that this is the girl from Stephens dream. Words like “transparent,” are used to show the girl is actually a ghost and so is the boy with her. The ghostly figures are described as “saw that the nails were fearfully long… light shone through them,” line builds up anticipation by telling us the ghostly figures have long nails but they are transparent. By this we know that the nails of the ghosts are long and they grow after they die. We are informed the girl has a “gaping rent,” so here we find out that she has no heart. Concern creates a terrifying approach to the girl not having a heart.
The girl has a large gap where her hear should be. Her “half-smiling” face shows us that she knows something like a secret. The boy too has a “gaping hole” where his heart should be. The line “in another movement this dread full pair… moved swiftly… and noisily over the dry gravel. ” This depiction indicates and makes us aware that there is tense movement when the ghosts approach Steven. The novelist portraits to us that the ghosts are moving rapidly towards the house. As the story moves towards its bloody climax M. R. James creates suspense in several ways.
Firstly we are told that Mr. Abney want to see Stephen about something “connected with your future life,” Mr. Abney wants to discus Stephens’s future life. Why is Mr. Abney so interested in Stephens’s life and why does he keep asking him questions about his life. Mr. Abney calls Stephen “tonight as late as eleven o’clock in my study,” Straight away we know something terrible is going to happen. Mr. Abney tells Stephen “not to mention this matter to Mrs. Bunch… or anyone else. ” This tells us that it is to be kept a secret and not too told to anyone else in the house. This raises the question of why should Stephen have to keep it a secret from everybody.
We are unaware of what Mr. Abney wants to do to Stephen. As Stephen is approaching his room he see’s “Mr. Abney was sprinkling come incense on the brazier from a round silver bowl. ” This shows he is preparing for a religious ceremony. We sense that Mr. Abney is doing witchcraft or demons? Stephen appears to be very naive and unaware of what is going on. He is shown to be very gullible. When he is sprinkling incense it shows some sort of witchcraft or spell is going to happen. Also Mr. Abney tells Stephen that he should go to his “room at the usual time,” It tells us that something big is going to happen and Mr. Abney does not want anyone getting suspicious in the house.
As the story moves on Stephen “is determined to take his candle… go to Mr. Abneys study,” From this already the tension is starting to build up. The image of “candles” reminds us the house is dark. As Stephen approaches Mr. Abneys study “Mr. Abney was engaged and was speaking,” By this we are told Mr. Abney is speaking to someone but we don’t know who. This adds tension to the story because it is very unusual for Mr. Abney to talk to himself. Stephen does not know what is going inside so we can just imagine what Stephen is imagining at that moment.
Like Stephen we hear frantic and painful cries coming from the room. This indicates that something violent or bizarre is going on inside. “Why was he chocked in his throat? ” The use of a rhetorical question is shown here to make the reader think of the question more carefully. The question is put in here on purpose so the reader thinks about the question more carefully. Another question is asked to the reader “has he too, seen the mysterious children,” This is another rhetorical that is used to make the reader think about the question but not actually answer the question.
This question suggests that Mr. Abney has seen the ghosts as well and is gasping with terror because he is looking the ghosts. A really good key point of tension in the story is that there is an “endless procession of unseen people. ” This shows a change in the atmosphere. The winds are now starting to rise. This portraits a very eerie atmosphere. Ghostly figures are being show to create mystery towards the end. This indicates to the reader the spring equinoxes are approaching. Successfully, towards the end Mr. Abneys true colours are revealed to the reader.
M. R. James uses a clever shifting setting, going from the past to the future and going back to the past again. When Stephen goes down to the study suspense and panic builds up to why Mr. Abney has called him here. We are told about what are in the papers on the table. The papers are Mr. Abney’s dairy. We are told what Mr. Abney has written. We hear Mr. Abney speaking about his beliefs through the letters he has written we find out lots of relevant information of how the tension is built up throughout the story and how Mr. Abney has asked all these bizarre questions about three young children.
We find out how immoral and self fish Mr. Abney really is. Mr. Abney has to have “the absorption of hearts. ” This is now clear to the reader of where the hearts of the other two children went. We are also told from his letters that “three humans beings below the age of twenty – one. ” We find out here how self-centred Mr. Abney really is. Lots of questions have now been answered of why Mr. Abney wanted to know Stephens age. He believed that if he had gathered three hearts of young children the he would gain internal life.
By gathering three hearts and cooking them and dinking the blood he would live forever. The name of the girl was “Phoebe Stanley, March twenty fourth seventeen ninety two. ” The boy “Giovanni Paoli, night of March twenty third eighteen o five. ” And “Stephen march twenty fourth, eighteen twelve. ” All the dates of the three children are the twenty fourth of March during the start of the spring equinox. He calls the children “living subjects” It shows he is a heartless person and does not care for them. From this we gather Mr. Abney does not class them as proper human beings.
In a narrative style the reader returns to Mr. Abney’s death. We are told Mr. Abney “was found in his chair… heard throw back. “Already we know Mr. Abney is dead. We can tell he has suffered a painful death by “his face was stamped with an expression of rage and fright. ” From this we notice that Mr. Abneys death was a harsh death. These powerful words are used to shows that this was done for a reason and was to take back revenge. He had suffered “immortal pain. ” We know he has not reached his goal by killing Stephen and gaining eternal life.
On the left side of Mr. Abneys rib cage were “terrible lacerated wounds,” This shows us something with long sharp nails has slashed wounds there his heart his showing parts of his heart. One unusual thing is that we are told as readers that “a long knife that lay… was perfectly clean. ” Here we are told that the knife was supposed to be used to kill Stephen. The knife had not been touched and lay there flat. Before he could kill Stephen he died himself. Later on the writer informs us that Mr. Abney was killed by the “agency of some wild creature,” The long slash wounds suggest a sharp weapon has killed Mr. Abney.
However the reader knows is convinced it is a different story. We know the ghost children have taken their revenge and have killed Mr. Abney. Finally, M. R. James has successfully succeeded in creating tension all the way through the story. M. R. James has written a strange but interesting ghost story. The story is interesting and is very effective. The ghostly figures are described as “a dreadful pair”. From this we can imagine the two children. The story has a twist at the end. We as readers can only imagine what is happening and what is going to happen later on in the story.
In the story we start to assume that something is will happen to Stephen. However when we finish the story, we find Mr. Abney is dead. The twist in the story makes it more interesting to interpret and the reader does not get puzzled. As we see Stephen does not die at the end and is saved by the two ghostly children. Throughout the story Stephen has received many warnings from the ghosts. We know the two ghost children have killed Mr. Abney in the same way he had killed them. Overall M. R. James has managed to create tension throughout the story and has succeeded in writing it effectively.