Charles Dickens, as a novel writer, is renown for writing in excessive amounts in order to describe people or the atmosphere, or for setting scenes. However, in his short stories, such as ‘The Black Veil’, he has to keep the story short, and so cannot afford to go into as much detail as he would prefer. However, being one of the great authors of all time, he still manages to create classic works in just a few pages.
The Black Veil’ is approximately 10 pages long, which, compared with Dickens’ novels, is very short indeed, even smaller than a usual chapter in a novel. In the first paragraph, Dickens ttempts to set the scene by describing the weather. Usually, he would write for a relatively long time about such a thing, but here he has to keep it short, spending only a paragraph on the subject. He decides to make the weather outside very harsh in order to quickly set an atmospheric mood of cold and dark, and mystery.
He backs up his description of how bad the weather is by contrasting it with the surgeon’s warm home. ‘First, he thought how hard the wind was blowing and how the cold, sharp rain would be at that moment beating in his face if he were not comfortably housed at home. ‘ Dickens also spends little time in describing the surgeon himself, not even telling the reader his name. However, it does mention a character called Rose, who the surgeon wishes to marry.
This outlines the surgeon’s aims in life, and also his problems. Then he began to wonder when his first patient would appear or whether he was destined, by a special dispensation of providence, never to have any patients at all. In this opening paragraph, Dickens has set the scene and has added the start of a plot through a, at this point, very vague character. The next paragraph introduces another character who is intended by Dickens to add both ension and a comical effect to the story. The character has very little description, but from what there is, the reader imagines a chubby little boy eating peppermints all day.
He introduces the main subject of the story, the woman in the black veil, and does so in an interesting, and somewhat amusing way. The main purpose of the boy is to add a wider perspective of the woman. He causes suspense and tension, as well as excitement from the way he tries to tell the surgeon of the visitor, but is obviously afraid of her. The boy makes the woman seem disturbing and frightening. The next paragraph describes the woman’s appearance, vaguely, but showing that she is of a strange appearance.
She does not say anything for a long time, adding to the suspense and making her seem even stranger. The woman then tells the surgeon of her problem, which to the reader, and the surgeon, sounds ridiculus. There is a sense of mystery and confusion, as the reader cannot comprehend why the woman will not let the surgeon help the man she speaks of until it is too late. Dickens makes the woman sound desperate and deeply concerned for the person she talks of, but he does not reveal why the woman will not let the surgeon see he man.
Tomorrow morning he of whom I speak will be I know, though I would fain think otherwise, beyond the reach of human aid; and yet, tonight, though he is in deadly peril, you must not and could not serve him. ‘ Dickens continues to keep the reader confused, not giving away the reason why the surgeon cannot help the man, constantly repeating the fact that he is going to die before tomorrow, but he cannot be helped until tomorrow. Dickens then issues some possibilities of why the man cannot be seen, or helped until tomorrow. He does this to keep the reader thinking and to keep them interested.