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I have chosen to look at four short stories which were written in the victorian age

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Introduction

Compare and Contrast a selection of pre 1914 short stories commenting upon features of interest People have written short stories for hundreds of years; however it was not until the 19th century that they really became popular. Short stories were the ideal form for writers who wanted to earn some immediate money and reach a wide audience. As more people were given the chance of receiving basic education, literacy rates improved and more were able to enjoy reading. As the technology improved printing became cheaper meaning that more people could afford to buy and read cheap magazines. This was in the days before television or radio when reading aloud was a much more popular form of entertainment. I have chosen to look at three short stories which were written in the Victorian age by different authors. They are "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story "The Signalman" takes place in an isolated railway cutting, where a traveller meets and befriends a lonely signalman who has a strange tale to tell. He is being haunted by a mysterious figure that lurks in the mouth of a rail tunnel, warning him of impending tragedy. He has appeared twice before and on both occasions the signalman witnessed terrible accidents; a train crash and a young bride falling from a speeding carriage. The signalman fears that the figure will return and some other tragedy will occur. Charles Dickens wrote this tale after being involved in a train wreck in which he narrowly escaped injury. The accident haunted him for the rest of his life. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a very strange story. The story is about how a woman is driven mad through being trapped in a room. It shows how the relationship between an oppressive husband and his submissive wife pushes her from depression into insanity. ...read more.

Middle

Conan-Doyle went with the more traditional approach, making his main character a very typical murderer. The character Dr Roylott is a very violent man. You can assume that he is the murderer in this story just by the description Dr Watson gives of him. He describes Dr Roylott as "a huge man", who possessed "A large face seared with a thousand wrinkles and marked with every evil passion". He has "deep-set, bile shot eyes" and a "high thin fleshless nose, (which) gave him the resemblance of a fierce bird of prey" Dr Roylott would seem to be evil from the start. Dr Watson, looking at him, remarked that his face was "marked with every evil passion"; and this appearance gives a prediction of what the personality may be like, in this case evil. Hearing the story that Helen Stoner told Holmes you would assume that this man was the same man whose "violence of temper approaching mania" resulted in "long term imprisonment" in India because "in a fit of anger caused by some robberies which had been perpetuated in the house, he beat his native butler to death." Dr Roylott lived a secluded life after he moved to Stoke Moran. When he arrived, instead of being sociable, "he shut himself up in his house, and seldom came out, save to indulge in ferocious quarrels with whoever might cross his path." This lack of friends and the absence of a friendly personality resulted in a void, which he used anger to fill. He became an embittered angry man after the death of his wife. Helen Stoner said that after the death of his wife, he abandoned all ideas of setting up a practice in London and moved to Stoke Moran. "But a terrible change came over our stepfather at that time... he became the terror of the village, and folks would fly at his approach, for he is a man of immense strength, and absolutely uncontrollable in his anger." ...read more.

Conclusion

"The left arm of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven places. The marks are perfectly fresh. There is no vehicle save a dog-cart which throws up mud in that way and only when you sit on the left hand side of the driver." He may be exercising his skill, or he may be using this occurrence as a sales tactic, impressing a potential client. Comparing the three stories I have described how they are all written in the first person singular, but from very different perspectives. The story "The Signalman" is told to us by a narrator, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by an observer and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by the diary of the subject. "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is the typical detective story. Holmes is presented as an observant, intelligent and committed detective, which is the typical investigators role in a murder mystery, and the story ends happily with a definite conclusion. This contrasts with "The Yellow Wallpaper" where the end is far from satisfactory and the reader is left wondering what has happened! Has she killed her husband? What will she do next? What will happen to her? The woman in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is very untypical of the normal subject in a psychological thriller. She at first seems to be a perfectly normal woman not really ill at all, but gradually we see her mind deteriorate and she slowly turns into a creature resembling a wild animal, prowling around her bedroom. "The Signalman" bears some similarities to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story in that there is a definite ending when the signalman is killed. There is a difference however in that the reader is then left with a question in their mind, which is similar to "The Yellow Wallpaper". Is the narrator of the story a normal person or is he possibly the ghost? This is the typical ending of a mystery story; leaving the reader with a quandary to ponder over after they have finished reading, making them want to read it all over again. 1 By Chris Davies ...read more.

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