How does the author use the section in Hang Wood to deepen the tension in the relationship between the two boys, Kingshaw and Hooper?
Firstly the author creates the right atmosphere to build upon the tension in the boy’s relationship. She uses a dramatic contrast between two different atmospheres in order to emphasis the tension. Initially Hang Wood is portrayed as a nice, safe haven for Kingshaw far from Hooper and Warings. Soothing ‘s’ sounds are used in alliteration to make the wood seem a pleasant place to be. For example the opening sentences of chapter six make use of the technique of sibilance:
“Kingshaw held his breath. There was a continual soughing movement inside the wood and the leaves rustled together like silk…”
There is also a sense of security created by the idea we are given of being completely hidden and the relaxed image of Kingshaw that comes across when he is free of Hooper. Things like the birds singing, the rabbit and the ‘shaft of sunlight’ help with this image.
The dramatic contrast and beginning of the build-up of tension comes with the line:
“And there was Hooper.”
At this point the sentences become shorter, jerkier and the images created become suddenly a lot more negative, for example the sentences:
“He was not much afraid, not angry even. His luck had not held, had probably never been in.”
are a perfect display of short and jerky sentences mingled with Kingshaw’s change of mood, from a brief optimistic interlude back to his standard pessimistic self.
There is also the continual bickering that ensues between the boys, childish yet vicious and also quite threatening in some cases. The way they almost bounce off each other, each trying to outdo the other:
“I don’t know.”
“Go and look.”
“So are you then.”
“Don’t be stupid.”
Each boy rises to the taunt of the other by trying to be the stronger, braver. Although as is becoming both inevitable and predictable from what we have read so far, Kingshaw is generally the first to back down or fail to fight back.
Another element which adds to the tension is the constant switching back and forth of the leadership between the two boys. Upon his arrival, another factor we have become accustomed to, Hooper takes the role of leader and Kingshaw follows without question. However, Kingshaw is furious with himself for accepting this. But the leadership does take turns with Hooper generally taking charge at times of ‘fun’ such as the deer chase and the pool and Kingshaw taking control in serious events or when problems arise such as the storm. The difference between the two in this is that when Hooper takes control he does so by choice and force and when Kingshaw has control it is generally because Hooper can’t or won’t and demands that Kingshaw look after him.
Each boy reacts differently to the various problems which arise, such as the deer chase which Hooper immediately takes seriously as a ‘hunt’ whereas Kingshaw sees it as a good chance to learn and observe. Hooper shows the violent aspects of his personality, his desire to track the deer and kill it, whereas Kingshaw shows a sensitivity and willingness to learn about the deer and how it lives (and not for any nasty purpose either!)
Also in the storm, Hooper’s reaction is a shock after the impression we are given of him originally because for the first time we see that he is truly human. Because he reacts in such a way that we would not expect it to be just the storm that affected him. Things such as this show the sudden change in Hooper:
” ‘Oh God, Oh God.’ ”
“Hooper was completely beside himself, wrapped up in his fear, oblivious of everything except the storm…”
Kingshaw’s reaction however is the complete opposite and shows a new, suddenly more mature character who takes the lead and helps Hooper through his problems. He shows that he is infinitely more practical than Hooper, for example:
“Kingshaw draped his anorak carefully over the top of the bushes, spreading it as much as possible.”
A similar thing happens when the two boys discover that they are lost and possibly have strayed into Barnard’s Forest. Hooper becomes suddenly terrified again and starts to panic, to the point that he makes himself ill. Kingshaw however takes the initiative and decides to use a piece of string to go and find a way out of the forest.
The two boys are very different ton each other in how they handle situations, Kingshaw seems a lot more mature whereas to Hooper it is all a game, unless he is actually frightened, indicating that he is really quite a baby.
Another factor that shows the different attitudes of each boy and their reactions to certain things is the way each handles their fears. Hooper is realistically afraid of some things and generally over confident most of the time, yet Kingshaw is terrified literally of everything which makes him a slightly unrealistic character. The other thing about Kingshaw’s fears that makes them different is that even after he has confronted them, they will come back, stronger. For example when he is about to jump into the pool to join Hooper, he remembers a previous fear and a similar event:
“Kingshaw still did not move. He remembered the bright artificial blue of the swimming pool into which the boy called Turville had made him dive.”
These facts all contribute to the build-up of tension in the boy’s relationship and how their relationship alters throughout this section and how although the balance and leadership between the boys is constantly changing, yet Hooper comes out on top and can always beat Kingshaw down.
Other points which could have been included:
- Kingshaw’s discovery of his capacity for violence and his own shame at that discovery, so different from Hooper’s excitement when he first thought of the crow.
- Also how at the end he hands back the power to Hooper having threatened to hit him, saying: ‘I wouldn’t have hit you.’ He knows what he is doing, yet his sense of morality, his conscience insists that he tell the truth.
Ultimately the author’s purpose in taking the action of the story into neutral territory is to explore new aspects of the boys’ characters, to allow Kingshaw to discover both a new resourcefulness he hadn’t suspected before and a capacity for violence that alarms him and for the reader to see more completely, how evil Hooper is. He has no redeeming characteristics, not even his tendency to regress to babyhood under severe pressure. He recovers from each bout of hysteria no less powerful and no more humane. He has learned more about Kingshaw’s fears and his morality which he is able to exploit and Kingshaw who has also learned about Hooper’s weaknesses discovers himself to be unable, morally to exploit them. The reader who has at first been lulled into a false sense of security, been led to believe, along with Kingshaw, that perhaps things will be alright after all, has had their sympathies for Kingshaw fully developed, suddenly realises that in fact Kingshaw has been set up; his weaknesses and his strength laid bare, and that because his strength lies in his moral fibre he can in fact never win! Because he will never descend to Hooper’s level, can not bring himself to play the game by the same rules as Hooper.
His ultimate fall will, therefore, be that much harder for the reader to take.