In Daphne du Maurier's story, "The Birds," how do specific details add to the suspense?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Perhaps in Daphne du Maurier's story, "The Birds," what she describes is more important than what her characters say, by way of adding to the story's overall suspense.

Dialogue is general a source of enormous amounts of information in a story, but Nat, our protagonist, is not very outgoing, so much of what we learn that occurs in the story comes from his simply observations, which may partly be due to his stint in the army—he is observant, seeing things that others don't notice, or that they discount, and he is more of a thinker than a talker.

Some of the specific details that stand out for me include the massing of the birds on the water. Their sheer number makes the detail take on a deeper significance, and even Nat cannot ignore the potential significance of the seriousness of such an event.

The ferocious attacks visited upon Nat's family and their home is all the more suspenseful in the innocuous way in which the threat begins. As his family sleeps, Nat hears a tapping at the window. Opening to investigate, he is attacked by a bird. Soon, the tapping begins again, and increases: thus introducing a heightened sense of suspense and fear.

After the first night, when Nat looks outside and sees not one chimney fire burning, the reader is struck first with the question as to why no one has gotten up to light their home fires. This introduces a sense of suspense.

With further consideration, there is the suggestion of the isolation Nat and his family are now experiencing, and the extent of the danger in which they find themselves; when Nat visits the Trigg farm and finds everyone dead, the unlit fires take on new meaning.


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