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Comparing Pre 20th Century and 20th Century Short Stories. 'The Whole Town's Sleeping' by Ray Bradbury written in 1950 and 'A Terribly Strange Bed' written in 1856 by Wilkie Collins.

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Introduction

WILLIAM WEBSTER 4SK - ENGLISH COURSEWORK Comparing Pre 20th Century and 20th Century Short Stories In this essay, I will compare pieces of 20th century and pre 20th century literature. The two short stories I will compare are 'The Whole Town's Sleeping' by Ray Bradbury written in 1950 and 'A Terribly Strange Bed' written in 1856 by Wilkie Collins. Both stories attempt to instil fear in the reader and I will assess how it is done in both; looking especially at similarities and differences in certain aspects of how the story is written. 'The Whole Town's Sleeping' is set in an isolated town in Illinois in the USA. The feeling of isolation is made stronger by the fact that the town is cut off from the rest of the world by a river and a forest. The story is set in the evening which as time progresses, turns into the night. This increases tension as things generally seen more frightening at night. The weather is hot. Hot weather can provoke people into being tense or stressed. The reader is made aware very near the start of the story that the whole town is living in fear of a murderer who is at large. ...read more.

Middle

He is constantly aware of its downward motion but is too astonished to move. The fact that he only gets out of its way right at the very last moment builds up great tension. The final moments of tension come as Mr Faulkner makes his escape from the casino. The reader is tense because he is aware that if Mr Faulkner makes one mistake he will surely be murdered. The last moment of tension comes as Mr Faulkner makes his way to the police station through the thief ridden Parisian streets, at night, carrying with him the large amount of money he won at the casino. In 'The Whole Town's Sleeping', the increase in tension is directly related to the downfall in the mental state of the main character, Lavinia. At the start of the story, Lavinia is described as being, 'cool as mint ice cream.' She is bored with her life and seeks more excitement. Throughout the story she gets this excitement and finds she can't cope with it. Her search for excitement leads her into great danger. She is foolish and refuses offers of safety from her friends and from a police officer. This is partly because she is in search of excitement and partly because as her fear increases she loses her trust in others. ...read more.

Conclusion

Both stories attempt to provoke a sense of tension, suspense and fear in those who read them. Both authors use different techniques. In 'The Whole Town's Sleeping', the point of tension comes as Lavinia returns home, alone through the ravine. The author uses short, rapid sentences to make the reader feel the panic and trepidation Lavinia is experiencing. In 'A Terribly Strange Bed', the reader is given a very clear idea of what is going on by the author's vivid descriptions. The main point of tension comes as Mr Faulkner finds himself in a four-poster bed whose canopy lowers to murder its occupant. This creates a sense of fear and tension in the reader as he/she is left in no doubt about what exactly is going on and realises what a dangerous situation Mr Faulkner is in. Personally, I prefer the style that 'A Terribly Strange Bed' is written in because it lets the reader know exactly what danger Mr Faulkner is in, using description to make sure he/she realises. 'The Whole Town's Sleeping' is not as clear and defined. At the main point of tension (as Lavinia walks home) it is not made clear whether she is in danger or is just overreacting. Some people may find this adds to the effect if fear as it provokes a sense of uncertainty but I do not. ...read more.

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