A Face in the Dark

A Face in the Dark

by Ruskin Bond

Comment on the supernatural elements in “Face in the Dark”.

QuestionsComment on the supernatural elements in “Face in the Dark”.
Sharmeen Danial asked 4 years ago

A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond deals with paranormal. Discuss.

Or, Assess the story “A Face in the Dark” as a supernatural story.

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2 Answers
Jayanta Kumar Maity Staff answered 3 years ago

Ruskin Bond is a masterful artist of paranormal in his literature. In the short story “A Face in the Dark”, he has used all the elements of a horror story — fear, surprise, suspense and mystery to explore humanity’s collective fascination with the dark. Set in Simla, Himachal Pradesh, the story is about an uncanny experience of Mr. Oliver, a teacher in an English public school, who stumbles upon a boy and then a watchman, both of whom have no eyes, no ears, no nose and no mouth.

So, understandably the plot of the story is all about coming across paranormal figures, as it should be in a ghost story or horror story. But only the theme or main storyline doesn’t make it a great supernatural story. It is, indeed, all about creating the perfect setting and atmosphere for a supernatural story that makes it a masterpiece. And Bond has done that to perfection in this case. In fact, the author has been able to do all this keeping the story concise.

Mr. Oliver returning after dark, the strong wind, the sad eerie sounds made by the pine trees, the narrow forest path, the flickering light of the torch, figure of a boy sitting alone on a rock, the strange soundless weeping, the torch falling from Oliver’s shaking hands, lantern swinging in the middle of the path, the wind blowing out the lamp — all these contribute to creating an atmosphere of fear, suspense and mystery in the story. Even the title of the story evokes suspense in the readers’ minds. With his masterful narrative and other techniques the author has made an ordinary event look extraordinary. In its theme and setting “A Face in the Dark” is a gem of a supernatural story, no doubt.

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Meghattay Saha answered 4 days ago

‘A Face in the Dark’ is a short story by Ruskin Bond. The setting of the story is a deep and dark pine forest on the outskirts of the north Indian hill station, Simla. Mr Oliver, a bachelor, often visited the Simla Bazaar in the evening and then took a shortcut through the forest to the school. But on a particular night while returning, he saw a boy sitting on a rock and crying. When he asked the boy to raise his face, he saw in the flickering light of his torch- a faceless round head with a cap perched over it. In fear he ran towards the school only to encounter another faceless entity in the form of the watchman.

The setting of the story thus is mysterious, eerie and supernatural. It is, indeed, all about creating the perfect setting and atmosphere for a supernatural story that makes it a masterpiece. And Bond has done that to perfection in this case. In fact, the author has been able to do all this keeping the story concise.

In order to suit his theme and make the story more impactful, Ruskin Bond adopts a simple, lucid and straightforward style. The author has used apt and appropriate imagery and language to create an atmosphere of eeriness and super naturalism. The descriptions of the scenes and setting very vivid and graphic which all enhance the mysterious and weird atmosphere which the author aims at creating.

The title of the story ‘A Face in the Dark’ is very appropriate as it suggests to the reader a theme which is got dark or paranormal connotations. The use of the word ‘dark’ denotes the paranormal, the supernatural and the weird. The story is eerie, leaving one haunted in a melancholy sort of way, and is beautifully written. He makes the supernatural appear entirely natural, and therefore harder to ignore. The author adroitly uses language to create his mysterious and strange atmosphere.

He opens the story with an ordinary school teacher’s routine. The solitary, secluded location of the school at some distance from the Simla Bazaar and the presence of dark pine trees that make spooky noises is an example of the technique of foreshadowing, creating a perfect fearful ambiance for this supernatural story.  Then he introduces the eerie atmosphere of the dark forest with the howling wind and through the use of words and phrases like ‘sad,’ ‘eerie sounds,’ ‘racked with silent sobbing,’ ‘shook convulsively’, the torch falling from Oliver’s shaking hands, lantern swinging in the middle of the path- succeeds in creating an atmosphere replete with supernatural and fearful connotations.

The imagery abounds in super naturalism and paranormal scenes. The image of a lonely boy in the night in a dark forest amidst the howling wind and rustling leaves, sitting on a rock ‘racked by silent weeping’ not only evokes a feeling of strangeness, of impending horror but also of sympathy for a weeping child. Thus a mastery of language helps him to achieve this effect.

The use of flickering torch in the dark forest and the lamp of the watchman is a great example of the use of chiaroscuro technique (use of sharp contrasts of light and darkness) which dramatically heightens the tension and increases suspense.

The description of the boy’s face, having no eyes, no ears, nose or mouth also helps in creating a strange, frightening, fearful, mysterious and supernatural atmosphere.

The climax of the story, placed right till the ends has the power to completely arrest the reader’s attention and imprint an unforgettable image on his/her mind. The story ends with suspense to what might have happened to Mr Oliver and leaves the readers in confusion. Thus, it describes a thrilling and horrific incident leaving the readers intrigued about Mr Oliver.

Such an effect speaks of the superior writing and storytelling skills of Ruskin Bond. With his masterful narrative and other techniques the author has made an ordinary event look extraordinary. In its theme and setting “A Face in the Dark” is a gem of a supernatural story, no doubt.

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