#2 Suspense Elements in “Girls’ Day Out”

After reading through all of “Girls’ Day Out,” I couldn’t help but take from it a strong feeling of intended suspense, as if she actually wanted the reader to be forced to read through the sections of the poem multiple times to fully grasp its meaning.  There were frequent elements throughout comparative to the plot structure of a thriller or horror movie.

I chose to start with the “Girls’ Day Out” section, as the entire poem is aptly named after it.  The first thing that I noticed was that it was written in a very stream-of-consciousness-like fashion; often, sentences were incomplete, and a stable mental picture was never really provided, only “flashes” of specific elements of the overall “day out.”  In other words, rather than trying to tell the whole story to the reader, the author instead attempts to “feed” to the reader her timeline of thoughts as the event unfolded, like a playback of a tape recorder of her exact thoughts rather than a description of the events she recollects.  This alone adds a lot of ambiguity to the poem; I’m certain very few people, if any, could assume from this portion of the poem alone (before the fading text) that some horrific tragedy had occurred there.

After the fading text segment, it becomes more apparent that this particular “day out” was significant, as it’s revealed that the girls’ adventure that day had taken place on some sort of graveyard (this is revealed only to the reader; the girls out that day had not bore witness to this fact yet).  But yet, ambiguity lingers. Were the deceased girls murdered?  Had they passed away of old age and were properly buried there long ago?  Or did they all encounter some terrible fate with a blistering summer heat?  And most importantly: how do the girls on horseback discover this?

The part I read next, shards, created suspense by a different method.  The text clippings from the article were likely chosen because of they evoke strong, stressful emotions in the reader.  Using specific, gory phrases regarding the murders genuinely jars the reader, especially after coming from a much more neutral poem with a significantly different structure.  It also does the necessary job of clarifying how the girls on the plateau had died, but still withholds information about how the two sections of the poem are directly related, other than their location.

The final section, the author’s note, appeared to be included to tie together all of the emotion surrounding the events to a single story so the reader fully understands what had occurred.  What I find intriguing is that the Flash provides no direction or recommended reading order for how the sections should be read.  I chose to read them in the preceding order because the eLiterature page had described the sections in that order, but even so, the page never actually recommended me to read it that way.  This bothers me a little, as I really feel like the entire poem would have had much less of an emotion impact if the reader had read either Shards or the author’s note first; by being led in with such a tame introduction and slowly introduced to the tragedy, the suspense grew within me as it might watching a suspense flick with a genius plot.  The girls on horseback had their experience first, and only afterwards learned of the grotesque, terrible murders.  By reading the poem in the order of their thoughts, I experienced the events in the same order they did, with a mind that couldn’t interpret what was spooking the horses, only to later find out through a newspaper article of shocking phrases detailing what had happened there.


~ by n00neimp0rtant on January 24, 2011.

One Response to “#2 Suspense Elements in “Girls’ Day Out””

  1. • Ending is fairly abrupt; not much of a conclusion
    • Should have mentioned more about how I thought that the author /should/ have directed or even forced the reader to read it the way that I did

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