Comment on the use of suspense and visual imagery in Norah Burke’s short story “The Blue Bead”.
The story “The Blue Bead” strikes our wonder as we set out our journey through the world of Sibia coming across her act of bravery. It is not just a tale told by a narrator; rather it comes alive in our minds’ eyes. We feel thrilled at the riveting suspense that looms large throughout the narrative and another poetic artifice — the skillful use of visual images in her supple prose. It is a combined effort that makes narrative every inch a live experience for the readers.
At the outset, we get the very impression that something exciting is going to happen. To our astonishment, we get introduced to the fearsome crocodile emerging out of black water. It is thus the first episode where suspense is dramatically created through the narrator’s extraordinary visual imagery. Visual images are used to convey various picturesque descriptions that transmute the story to a level of graphic picture. In some visual images in the story we feel the presence of poetic prose.
From deep water came the crocodile. He was twice the length of a tall man; and inside him, among the stones which he had swallowed to aid digestion, rolled a silver bracelet.
The writer emphasizes and imposes human attributes to the beast. It is therefore more lively and realistic. Next we must closely study how the writer describes the animal:
This antediluvian saurian — the prehistoric juggernaut, ferocious and formidable, a vast force in the water, propelled unimaginable and irresistible power of huge tail, lay lapped by ripples, a throb in his throat.
The entire description imparts to the animal’s monstrous appearance and simultaneously we feel how well the writer does begin the story full of suspense and horrid experience. The girl’s appearance is made vivid and dramatic by the writer’s powerful descriptive details. The plight and penury of the girl and her adventurous journey to eke out a living is made prominent in a part that accounts for a significant portion of the background of story:
With her ebony hair and great eyes, and her skin of oiled brown cream, she was a happy immature child-woman about twelve years old. Barefoot, of course, and often goosey-cold on a winter morning, and born to toil.
The girl’s agility is expressed by the garb of image:
she came leaping like a rock goat.
Her daily heroism is shown in the way she pounced upon the crocodile and drove the hay-fork at its eyes. Her struggle and stubborn temper is shown when she got her arms round the fainting woman. That is how both suspense and visual imagery go hand in hand.
We must shed light on the next suspense — the most potent motif of the story. Readers are eagerly anxious to know what happened to the crocodile and Sibia. The overtly theatrical tug of war between the crocodile and Sibia is full of suspense as it results in Sibia’s triumph. We all get surprised on seeing the girl’s fiery temper while attacking the monster-like beast.
The surprise we get in the end is Sibia’s sudden discovery of a blue bead when she herself got surprised along with the readers.