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A Comparison of a Pre-Twentieth Century and Contemporary Horror Writing, Looking in Particular at Techniques for Building Tension and Suspense.

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Introduction

A Comparison of a Pre-Twentieth Century and Contemporary Horror Writing, Looking in Particular at Techniques for Building Tension and Suspense. We looked at an extract from the pre-twentieth century horror story 'Dracula', by Bram Stoker. Dracula is a traditional gothic horror story set in middle Europe. It is written in the style of Harker's diary. We also looked at the contemporary writing 'One for the Road', by Stephen King. One for the Road is set in the United States of America and is written in the style of a personal conversation between the reader and the main character, Booth. Both stories deal with vampires and use similar methods of building tension and suspense. In the first three paragraphs of Dracula, the Count is very courteous towards Harker and after opening the door to his castle in Transylvania, he even bows "in a courtly way". He seems determined to help and insists on carrying Harker's luggage. It could be considered strange that Dracula does not have any servants or butlers to open doors and see to guests, but he dismisses this by saying that "it is late, and my people are not available". The way that Dracula introduces himself could also be considered bizarre as instead of saying, "Hello, my name is Count Dracula", he says very deliberately "I am Dracula". Dracula treats Harker to a lovely supper and has a warm room ready. ...read more.

Middle

Also, Booth says the wind "steals your heat". This personification of the weather intensifies the feeling that the elements are the real danger. When Lumley tells Booth and Tookey that his wife and young daughter are out in the blizzard, the reader is almost completely convinced that the rest of the story is going to be about how Tookey and Booth brave the angry storm to rescue Lumley's wife and daughter. The first insinuation that something is wrong and that there is danger beyond the weather is when Tookey shows pure fear when Lumley tells him that his car is "six mile south" of the bar. Tookey is desperate to have misheard and asks Lumley if he is sure about the distance. The reader gets the impression that if the car had been five or seven miles from the bar, there would not be any panic and the two men would have gone to rescue the Lumley's wife and daughter without hesitation. When Lumley mentions the turn-off, Tookey turns "pale and strained" and looks "older than his sixty-six years". The reader now knows that the real hazard is much worse than the weather and has a more specific idea of where the danger is. This adds tension and suspense because although the reader knows where the danger is , they still have no idea of what the problem is. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lumley's daughter has also been turned into a vampire and tension and suspense is created as the reader sees Booth being lulled by the girl's innocence and apparent vulnerability. For a moment, Booth is so taken by the little girl's evil seduction that he almost wants to become a part of the vampire world within Jerusalem's Lot. Booth no longer has the will power to resist her. Tookey has to rescue Booth from the "little girl from hell" by throwing his Bible at her. The epilogue of the story still manages to create suspense by ending by saying that the little girl is still out there, "waiting for her goodnight kiss". Both of the horror stories that we looked at use similar methods and techniques to build tension and suspense. They both avoid mentioning the real danger at first, but often hint at it, making the reader really think about what dangers could emerge. Dracula lulls Harker and the reader into a false sense of security by being very charming and courteous which is the main cause of tension and suspense in the extract of Dracula. In One for the Road, Booth convinces the reader that the real danger in Maine is the weather, and only hints at anything more. Both stories use a lot of description and require the reader to use their imagination. Because of this, the appearance of Dracula and the blizzard in Maine are probably exaggerated in the mind, which would create suspense and tension. i I ...read more.

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