“Lost Hearts” is a chilling tale in which M.R. James successfully establishes horror and fear. The writer of this story productively uses literature stylistic devices to come up with a superb piece of work. The devices and styles of writing that the author chooses is a reasonable selection, and they all aim at establishing the mood of horror in the story. Therefore, the writer successfully uses these stylistic devices to articulate his message best to the readers. The aspects of writing used by James in his short story to establish horror may include vivid description, the use of suspense, and an appeal to religion and beliefs of the ancient times to come up with an excellent piece of work. The writer has efficiently made use of these instruments to write a horror short story of all times with the required mood appropriate for this genre.
In his narration, James uses the art of vivid description to come up with a paper that describes the environment in which the horror had a basis. For example, the writer describes the house where Stephen to lived with his uncle. The description is highly instrumental in developing a mental picture in the minds of the readers. He describes the house as “square, tall, redbrick house that had been built in the reign of Anne”. This description helps readers to understand the setting into which the story is embedded. A good understanding of the setting is highly instrumental as it comes appealing to the reader’s sense of the surrounding (Maunder 254).
Another aspect of description that occurs in the short story is when Stephen waits for the door at his uncle’s house to be opened. Stephen has memories associated with the feeling created by the surrounding. Therefore, the writer describes the surrounding in a way that is immensely appealing to his readers. A nearby church tower on the way to Stephen’s cousin’s home is vividly described. James describes this church as one hidden in the oaks and Abneys tower as one which stands out against the sky in the unique way. This helps the readers to create a mental picture of the new environment that Stephen could now be living in. The writer describes the environment also to show the kind of person Abney is; living in isolation and in the bush is enough to raise questions in Abney’s life.
According to the writer, remarkably little gets known about Abney’s personal life and temperaments. He describes Abney’s library in order to make the readers understand him. His library was a composition of books pertaining mysteries, the worship of Mithras, the Orphic poems, and the Neo-Platonists. The articles that were in his library help us to understand that Abney, besides being a professor at CambridgeUniversity, was a person with a weird and mysterious personality. The author uses these aspects to help the readers understand the pagan beliefs of Abney (James 74).
James also describes Stephen’s reception at his uncle’s place to show his uncle’s welcoming nature. The reception is warm, and it involves a dialogue between the two cousins. In the dialogue, Abney appears to be social and caring. In fact, he asks about Stephen’s birthday and enquires if he is too tired. James also describes Stephen’s dream as a way of establishing horror in this short story. In fact, the dream appears to be so vivid that the readers feel like they are in the same dream. James describes the dream in which Stephen looked at an unused bathroom that was next to his room. In this dream, Stephen had seen an emaciated figure that had a shroud-like garment. The figure had her hands pressed tightly to the heart, and she looked as if she was moaning. This description is so vivid that it makes the readers of this short story literally imagine that they are in the same dream. In fact, if someone reads the story in the night, he or she is likely to have horrific nightmares and sleepless nights. Therefore, James uses the description of this dream as a tool to establish horror in the short story.
The writer also uses suspense to establish a horrific mode of the short story. All along the story, the readers constantly feel that something dead on the offing is associated with Abney. James argues that Abney was so much into paganism and writing pagan articles published in magazines that he could hardly recognize his orphaned cousin. When Abney offers to host his orphaned cousin, this raises suspicion in the readers. The readers have the fear that something awful may happen to innocent Stephen during his life with his cousin. Also, when a man like Abney is very welcoming, it creates some suspicion in the readers’ minds. The readers would like to know why this occurs. James is so convincing, he even shows that his neighbors the least expect him to be so welcoming. The images in Abney’s apartments are scary, and they make the readers suspicious. The author describes the image of an old man holding a skull under his hand that Stephen had seen at the staircase. The mention of a skull at any setting stirs some fear in people’s minds, especially when the skull is human. The author of this story intended to use suspense so that to create the mood of horror in the house where they lived. The writer uses Stephen’s curiosity and friendship to expose yet another horrific concern in the story. The writer describes the mysterious disappearance of a boy and a girl at the hands of Mr. Abney.
These two ordeals, as described by the author, raise suspicion among the readers. The author makes the readers want to know where these children are. Could Mr. Abney be a man eater? Could be Mr. Abney had killed innocent children? The writer establishes these questions in the minds of the readers making the element of horror in the story outstanding. Stephen’s nightmare is the author's tool to also raise suspicion in this story. This suspicion directly translates to a more horrific mood in the story. The author uses the nightmare to make the readers wonder if the same could happen to Stephen. If this happened to Stephen who is the protagonist in the story, it could not get well with the readers. Therefore, the author stirs imagination that Stephen is at risk so that the story becomes more horrific and fascinating. The author had also used suspense when Mr. Abney instructs Stephen to find him in his room. The readers wonder what would happen to poor Stephen. In fact, Stephen finds Mr. Abney dead in his room. This is the hyper climax of the suspense in the story. The author develops this heightened suspense as a way of enhancing horror.
The author has also used religion to stir fear and hence develop the horrific mood of the story. James shows that Mr. Abnney knew a lot about the ancient pagan philosophies and religions such as the worship of Mithras and Neo Platonism (Ashley 711). The fact that he loved writing about these religions has also been articulated in the short story to show his hard death due to belief in paganism. At the end of the story, Abney’s belief in supernatural power was weird. He believed that he could get supernatural powers by taking the lives of three children. This was a weird religious affiliation associated with his paganism. He believed that the hearts of these young children could give him supernatural powers when he mingled the ashes of the three hearts with wine. The description of these opinions that were so sacred to Mr. Abney occurs as an instrument to stir horror at its climax level in the story. The belief of Mr. Abney is so thrilling that it makes the readers acquire the required mood and message of this short story. The writer also describes Mr. Abney’s belief that the ghosts of the three children would turn against him, but they were not strong enough to cause any damage. The writer presents Mr. Abney’s weird and mysterious ideas as an aspect of horror in the short story.
From the foregoing, it is undoubtedly clear that the author successfully uses suspense, pagan religion, and vivid description of events to build horror in the story. Successfully used by the author, vivid description creates a mental picture of the environment of the setting of this short story. The paper has also not ignored James’ use of religion and mysterious happenings to stir fear and horror in the readers. Finally, the paper’s analysis of the suspense used by James and the extent to which the suspense is crucial in establishing the main theme of his work cannot be overlooked. Therefore, these aspects have been entirely necessary in James’ work of literature to make it effective. In fact, without these three aspects, the horror built by James in his piece of work would be less noticeable.