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Compare and contrast three nineteenth century short stories commentating upon the author's use of gothic conventions of horror and the supernatural.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast three nineteenth century short stories commentating upon the author's use of gothic conventions of horror and the supernatural. The first gothic short story was written by Horace Walpole in 1765. The first gothic short story was called "the caste log Otranto"; from this the whole gothic short story tradition began when readers found this novel to be electrifying, original, thrilling and suspenseful. Gothic short stories are based on the supernatural, and its medieval trappings, all of which have become the stereotypical of the gothic short stories. The word "Goth" originally came from the Germanic tribe. The Romans regarded them as barbaric and uncultured. Gothic was later applied to the style of medieval architecture. Then the term later appeared tot the late 18/19th century style of literature which had a fascination with death and the supernatural. Many gothic short stories have a villain in them for example "the castle of Otranto" has a villain called Manfred. Other short stories have a villain that is a ghost like the three short stories I am going to compare. In all these three short stories they are linked through the appearance of a ghost. These stories that I am going comparing are called: "An Arrest", "Napoleon and the Spectre" and "Signal Man". The story "An Arrest" was written by Ambrose Bierce. Where a man called Orrin Brower is in a country jail awaiting his trial. ...read more.

Middle

When looking back over his shoulder where the figure should have been standing, he immediately realises that the figure could only have been some sort of evil ghost like creature coming back to haunt him for killing Burton Duff. This leads Brower's mind too far into insanity to ever come back. Strangely this leads the reader to feel sorry for Brower as the only kind of life anyone can live after that kind of experience can only be a bad one. In the next story "The Signalman" is set in a pit down by a tunnel alongside a train track. This light deprived space is where the signalman lives his life. This adds to the effect of loneliness because most readers would fear to live in a place with "dripping wet walls of jagged stone on either side of him". The story begins with an unfamiliar stranger at the top of the "extremely deep cutting" shouting "Helloa! Below!" You later learn that these few words become very significant in the story. The man then takes the "zigzag descending path notched out" down to the signal man, who seemed confused by the words which the stranger had spoken because they are the extract same words that a person before him, standing in front of the danger light, had shouted before a devastating accident occurred. This man had one arm across his face and the other was "violently waved". ...read more.

Conclusion

In "An Arrest" the main character is called Orrin Brower. He is in jail as a result as "murdering his brother-in-law". Orrin Brower has not had a very pleasant life as we can tell from the opening paragraph. Brower is a very good gothic character as he is very dark and mysterious because we know what he is capable of. In "The Signalman" there are two main characters. One of these characters is the signalman himself. The other is the stranger who meets the signalman early in the story. The signalman has a scary appearance with his "a dark shallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows". I think that he is a very good example of a gothic character as he looks very dark and mysterious. "Napoleon and the spectre" is different to all the others because unlike "An Arrest" or "The signalman" Napoleon is known for good reasons. Napoleon is the emperor and is a strong hero, but in the "An Arrest" Brower is known for the wrong reasons, such as murdering his brother-in-law. Also in "The Signalman" he does not know any people apart from the one person who comes down to visit him and the strange male standing in front of the red light. Napoleon is not the same as the other two charters as he is not a typical gothic character. All three of these stories are linked through the appearance of a strange figure, although all of the stories have completely different plots, the figure seems to have a focal role in all stories. ...read more.

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