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Discuss the way Bronte and Dickens create mystery in their short stories 'Napoleon & The Spectre' and 'The Signalman'.

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Introduction

Discuss the way Bronte and Dickens create mystery in their short stories 'Napoleon & The Spectre' and 'The Signalman' The two stories that I have been studying are 'Napoleon and the Spectre' and the 'Signalman' written by Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens respectively. Both the stories are set in the nineteenth century, a period of time when the country was experiencing rapid change. Bronte's story 'Napoleon and the Spectre' is a story about the Emperor of France who at that time was a leading figure in society, a symbol and trademark of France's important position in the world. Napoleon was a gallant and valiant soldier and he supposedly murdered General Pichegru. In the story Napoleon comes in to contact with a strange supernatural creature who entices him and takes him on a deeply strange tour of the streets of Paris. Napoleon allows himself to be taken on this tour partly due to his courageousness and the fact that the ghost exerts a power over him, encouraging him on with enticing remarks such as, 'Follow me Napoleon and though shall seek more.' With Bronte's story being on one side of the spectrum Dickens is on the other as it tells a completely different type of story. It is once again set in roughly the same period of time when the civilized world was in the middle of a period of great change as the country was gripped in the Industrial Revolution. ...read more.

Middle

"'Was it?' whispered a hollow voice, in deep mysterious tones, close to his ear. 'Was it a delusion, Emperor of France................. Follow me Napoleon and thou shalt see more.'" The ghost is described in a dark and eerie manner, he is never totally visible to Napoleon but always partly obscured from Napoleon's sight, 'A black opaque shadow obscured it.' This keeps the reader in suspense as they wait with trepidation to find out what or indeed who the 'creature' is. Napoleon is also portrayed in a somewhat mysterious way, with his many brave and valiant actions to begin with he gets progressively more cowardly. He showed an apparent disregard for his own welfare as he moved through the centre of Paris, overlooking many of the possible negative outcomes if he were to be spotted by anyone, who looking at him from the outside in would think he had gone mad, 'Nap found himself in one of the principal streets of Paris.' He moved through Paris in his dressing gown, uttering words to his ghostly companion, a person looking at him would just see someone talking to himself, and justifiably come up with the conclusion that the person had gone mad or was insane. Napoleon seems to be compelled to continue on his tour of Paris even though he would rather return to get dressed, "'Worthy Spirit,' said he, shivering in the chill night air, 'permit me to return and put on some additional clothing. ...read more.

Conclusion

Both stories offer information about the time in which they were written. Bronte's story reveals the attitudes of people towards the great French leader and Dickens reveals the attitude of the people towards the Industrial Revolution and the speed of which the world was changing in that period. In my opinion I believe that while Dickens' story is interesting and compelling to read it doesn't have what all short stories should have; that it fails in my opinion, to get the reader involved or particularly interested in what the eventual outcome of the story will be. I feel it doesn't meet the necessary criteria to be a good short story, it is not entertaining nor exciting, but more a social/historical commentary of that time. Dickens saw it as his role to write about the plight of the poor and under privileged and wanted to encourage people to think about social inequalities. Where 'Signalman' has its short comings, Bronte's 'Napoleon and the Spectre' meets the criteria perfectly, it is short, has the necessary excitement and action to have an impact on the reader, which is what the aim of a short story should be. Bronte sensationalises a public figure and portrays him as a 'bad' man, consequently it could be said that this story also carries a moral in that we should be accountable for our actions no matter what our position in life may be. Alex Lov�n 30/04/20074:42 PM 1 ...read more.

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