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How is suspense created in the short story "How It Happened"?

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jackson99 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 23, 2011 at 3:37 AM via web

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How is suspense created in the short story "How It Happened"?

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beckyamyevanss | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:04 PM (Answer #1)

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How It Happened is a short story written by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1918. The narrator is the one experiencing what occurs in the story, so he is writing in first person. 

 

It starts off hinting that it is night time and that the narrator is excited to drive his new car. However he is not familiar with the new gear system to his Robur. So the reader wonders if there are any consequences to the narrators decision when he refuses his chaffeurs offer to driving him home. 

 

The car fails to function properly throughout the story and forces the narrator to crash into his house gates. 

The narrator fails to realize what has happened as he stumbles to call Perkins, his chaffeur. Thankfully he is alive, but the crowd around him does not seem to notice or hear the narrator. 

 

In the last paragraph, the narrator starts to talk to his long lost friend, Stanley. He suddenly realizes in the last couple of lines that Stanley, is infact, dead. That is the point when Stanley tells the narrator, that he is dead too. 

 

This story conveys the message that it is unsafe to drive at night and with a car you are unfamiliar with. It shows that sometimes, it is not always the best decision to take risks and that you should always consider the likely consequences before making a final decision. 

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hinashahid | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:23 AM (Answer #2)

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"How It had Happened" one of the master piece of english literature written by well renowed writer Arthur Conan Doyle,has the overwhelming shadow of amazement and wonder.The vagueness of the end of the story provokes a sense of curiosity among the readers.The writer is away from his home and he has to reach home.At that time ,his chauffeur,Perkins reaches over there with the car.The writer insisted to drive the car himself,in spite of forbidding from the chauffeur,because it was a new model vehicle .However,he did not take heed upon his forbidding and jumped to the driver's seat.the writer drove the motor with a flying speed and at the end an accident was occurred.At the end of the story his old dead friend was smiling at him.The writer's throat seemed to choak and said "stanley,you were dead".He looked at me with the same old gental wistful smile and answered,"so were you".awwh!what an uncertain fate of man

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justaguide | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 25, 2011 at 4:28 AM (Answer #3)

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Arthur Conan Doyle tries to create the required suspense, and has been quite successful at that, in his short story How it Happened by writing the story as a first person account.

The main character of the story is the one narrating it. The story's plot is that the gear system of the narrator's new car stops functioning which forces him to take a dangerous route to his house and he finally crashes the car through the gate of his house.

As the narrator continues to speak, the reader doesn't feel that anything has happened to the narrator and is under the impression that he has been able to save the life of his chauffeur and his own by the clever way in which he drove the car.

It is only in the last paragraph when the narrator talks about looking at one of his long dead friends and having a conversation with him that it suddenly dawns upon the reader that the narrator is dead and has been speaking in another form.

“Stanley!” I cried, and the words seemed to choke my throat —“Stanley, you are dead.”

He looked at me with the same old gentle, wistful smile.

“So are you,” he answered.

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