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Comparing and contrasting features of 5 short stories.

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Introduction

Comparing and contrasting features of 5 short stories The stories that are going to be compared are; The Monkey's Paw - W.W. Jacobs, The Signalman - Charles Dickens, The Red Room - H.G. Wells, The Murders in the Rue Morgue - Sir Thomas Browne and The Speckled Band: Sherlock Holmes Stories - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. These are all short stories written at around the same period as each other, yet they have some very different features; in the language used, the way in which tension is built, the point at which the tension is climaxed, the narratorial style and how the writer keeps the reader's attention throughout the story but especially towards the beginning. I am going to investigate the effectiveness of the various features. Initially The Monkey's Paw beings with a descriptive paragraph about the surroundings and the mood within the home the story is set in. It begins with a slight feeling of tension, as the weather is described to be, 'cold and wet' which is usually associated with ghost-type stories but this tension is immediately released with the 'but' and the contrast between the external conditions and the warmth and ease within Laburnam Villa - where 'the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. The first characters introduced are the father and son who are playing an unobtrusive game of chess which links in with the atmosphere created. The game of chess is played with a certain amount of determination to win and so a relationship is created between father and son. This is clever in the fact that it makes the reader able to relate to the situation and it means that the scene is set for the coming events to take place. As the story continues and the mother is introduced there is a sense of normality within the family, as though nothing out-of-the-ordinary ever happens to them. ...read more.

Middle

With the ignorance to the fact of the Paw of the representative, the shriek from the mother and the father fainting at this announcement the tension is released but leaves in its place an uncertainty of the Paws power. It is quickly realised that the characters suddenly have a newfound belief in the power and are scared of its outcome - which is exactly as the Sergeant-Major described. This makes the feeling between the characters tense and almost angry, especially when the mother wants to use the Paw again - to bring her son back. The father is immediately shaken and angry at his wife for even suggesting this, with the previous outcome being terrible for the both of them, saying, 'get back to bed. You don't know what you are saying.' But against the wishes of the husband the old woman insists on his wishing for their son to be back. With the wish granted after fierce words from the mother the tension is created again, leaving an air of uncertainty once they go to bed - the wish not granted. The question is left in the readers mind - was it coincidence or does the Paw really have the power it is said to? The writer continues in leaving the tension by keeping the characters awake in bed listening to the sounds around them and feeling literally oppressed by the darkness around them. The father goes down to light a candle and lights a match which promptly goes out followed by a knock on the door. The match going out could have been symbolic of what was about to happen. The 'scarcely audible' knock leaves the reader and characters frightened of what lies behind the closed door. The character flees upstairs but, with his ever hopeful wife hearing the knock he has to get to the door first to stop her from opening it. ...read more.

Conclusion

He falls a final time in which he has a 'frantic effort to keep his footing' and then he remembers no more. This, in a strange way, relieves tension as there is no longer the fear that surrounds both reader and character and the next paragraph gives both hope. With the character opening his eyes to daylight with his head bandaged, there is no longer any danger left with the daylight presenting safety and the old man with a withered arm who refused to go to the room means that the character is no longer in this haunted room. A conversation proceeds in which the character, slightly deliriously, asks what happened and the old people are insistent now that he must believe them that the room is haunted. Surprisingly, for the subplot, he agrees with them that it is haunted. But, it is not haunted by some spirit as they seem to think, neither countess nor duke, but by a human feeling - fear. It is explained that fear is the reason for strange happenings - purely because the people made these things happen with their fear. It is even said that fear is a power of darkness - in relation to the candles going out bringing about no light. The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a completely different style of story in the language used and the problem it presents. The language in the previous stories has been fairly easy to read, even many years after it was written, but this writing is very typical of upper-class narrative, using words that could easily be replaced by more commonplace and understandable phrases but are not due to the writer's vanity. There are also foreign phrases, mainly in French which are often understood by 19th Century upper-classes but are not to the modern day readers or to middle or lower-classes of the time. This is probably because at the time most people were uneducated and could not read particularly well and so the writer was only aiming at others of his status in society who would understand this dialect. ...read more.

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