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Do Victorian ghost stories follow a formula? Explore the techniques Victorian writers use to make their ghost stories effective. How effective are they and why?

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Introduction

Do Victorian ghost stories follow a formula? Explore the techniques Victorian writers use to make their ghost stories effective. How effective are they and why? This essay will try and find a formula, after reading a selection of stories and focusing on these to discover the formula. The stories were 'The Ostler' by Wilkie Collins (1855), 'The Red Room' by H.G.Wells (1896),'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens (1866). To try and prove there is a Victorian structure or formula to the stories, they need to be analysed. This essay will analyse how effective the openings of the stories and will discuss the techniques of the various authors to create an effective ghost story. By way of using a modus operandi- also called a formula. The stories are very alike, so this leads us to believe a structure does exist. At the time of the stories publications, it was the Victorian era of Britain. Queen Victoria was on the throne and it was a time of new advances in technology and new inventions, also a time of British expansion across the globe. The stories are therefore slightly influenced by this background to when they were written. ...read more.

Middle

However, 'the Signalman' doesn't use an obvious method of gothic literature. In fact it uses a modern setting- for that time, of the railway. Which during the Victorian era was a feared new invention. This is reflected in the story. The story uses the idea of being a scary story, while reflecting the feelings; contemporary at that time. While in 'The Ostler' a set of fairy basic settings are used. They are all just everyday places. Obviously with the exception of begin mysterious. To add to this, the chapter where Isaac is in the Inn where he sees the woman, is described as: "blowing, and solemn, monotonous, surging moan of it in the wood was dreary and awful to hear" This makes the reader feel the weather, and understand what Isaac feels. The way the setting is used to create a feeling, is pathetic fallacy. In addition to this the use of complex sentences and personification of the wind, helps create an spine-chilling story. To make the story scary and frightening- in addition to the setting, an atmosphere is added. Each of these stories creates a depressing and foreboding atmosphere. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mysteries the reader wants solved. Such as in 'the Signalman', the character of the signalman is not well known. But as we find out is troubled, adding to the mystery and eeriness of him. This is also used in 'the Ostler', when Isaac meets his wife's 'doppelganger', why did she appear to him? An enigma. Altogether, the structure builds tension, along with the opening, the settings and the themed atmosphere. But to get a good atmosphere you need a good structure, and vice a versa. In conclusion, I think Victorian writers did follow a formula when writing. But this formula is just the things that make a gothic story. So all they would have to do was to follow the gothic principles. This was noticed in all the stories analysed. But due to the modern (at the time) setting of the railway in 'the Signalman', means today a reader may not find it as intimidating as a Victorian reader. It does use, however, some of the gothic traditions. Such as ghosts, curses and senses of the supernatural. The stories are effective as mystery and ghost themed stories. I can see this because of the use of gothic themes. Overall, they use gothic values, but the authors use different settings, while at the same time use the same techniques. Paul Jay 10.2 English Miss Scholes ...read more.

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