Pre 1914 Prose Fiction - Stories of Mystery
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Compare the ways in which the authors of 'The Tell Tale Heart, 'The Sea Raiders', 'The Goblins who Stole a Sexton' and 'The Yellow Face' create an atmosphere of tension and mystery to involve the reader, and discuss how these stories are characteristic of the period in which they were written (19th Century). Each writer creates a unique feeling of mystery and tension in each of their respective stories, and the authors accomplish this in many different, varied ways. In 'The Tell Tale Heart', Edgar Allan Poe uses emotive vocabulary to build up a feeling of tension and excitement. His clever use of repetition builds up the feeling of madness and obsession that is experienced by the story's central character; phrases such as 'steadily, steadily' 1 and 'stealthily, stealthily' 2. The distinct lack of direct speech in the story paves the way for description, and Poe uses this to great effect. This use of strong emotive vocabulary expresses the nature of the narrator extremely well; his description of the old man's 'vulture eye' 3 clearly demonstrates that the narrator is not entirely sane. For some reason unbeknownst to the reader, the narrator develops a hate of the old man that stems from his 'evil eye' 4, and his twisted logic leads him to decide to kill the old man, 'and thus rid myself of the eye for ever' 5. This therefore puts the reader on edge and makes him feel tense; the sheer fact that the narrator is so determined to prove that he is not insane immediately raises eyebrows, for a completely sane man does not go around trying to prove so. His unstable mental state is once again demonstrated when the narrator describes how he approached the murder of the old man; he is proud of his meticulous preparation, the long hours spent inching his head into the old man's bedroom, and argues with the reader that a man lacking sanity would not be so careful when planning such a crime.
36; this makes the reader feel very uncomfortable and on edge. The goblins continue to torture Grub by violently kicking him and beating him, which makes the reader become very tense and apprehensive; the goblin 'lifted up one of his very pliable legs, and flourishing it above his head a little, to insure his aim, administered a good sound kick to Gabriel Grub' 37. Although delivered in a comical way, the reader can sense that below the humorous fashion in which the story is written, there is perhaps a darker side to the story as well. This hidden dark side to a story is comparable to 'The Sea Raiders', in which the cephalopods also appear to have a dark hidden intelligence about them that is concealed from the reader. The sentimental and traditional nature of this story does little to contribute to the overall feeling of tension; the way in which the first scene that the goblins show to Grub is described virtually erases the mounting tension and seems to slow the story down. However, between scenes, the intermittent abuse of Grub by the goblins helps to keep the levels of tension going throughout the middle section of this story. This sentimental style is unlike any other of the stories previously described and is unique to Dickens, amongst these stories. The tension dies out towards the end of the story, and is replaced by a sense of mystery, as Grub returns a completely reformed man and yet the locals would not accept his reformation, 'his repentance scoffed at' 38. Dickens leaves the reader with a sense of uncertainty, because from the locals' reactions, the reader becomes all of a sudden unsure whether Grub really was abducted by goblins or whether he was just in a drunken stupor. This is supported by the many theories that were put forward by the locals, all of which were entirely imagined and heavily dramatised.
Appendix 1 Edgar Allan Poe, 'The Tell Tale Heart', 'Nineteenth Century Short Stories of Passion and Mystery', Addison Wesley Longman Ltd, 1999, page 68. 2 ibid, page 69. 3 ibid, page 69. 4 ibid, page 68. 5 ibid, page 67. 6 ibid, page 68. 7 ibid, page 68. 8 ibid, page 68. 9 ibid, page 68. 10 ibid, page 69. 11 ibid, page 70. 12 ibid, page 71. 13 H.G.Wells, 'The Sea Raiders', 'Nineteenth Century Short Stories of Passion and Mystery', Addison Wesley Longman Ltd, 1999, page 73. 14 ibid, page 73. 15 ibid, page 74. 16 ibid, page 74. 17 ibid, page 75. 18 ibid, page 77. 19 ibid, page 76. 20 ibid, page 76. 21 ibid, page 76. 22 ibid, page 76. 23 ibid, page 76. 24 ibid, page 77. 25 ibid, page 77. 26 ibid, page 78. 27 ibid, page 81. 28 ibid, page 80. 29 ibid, page 78. 30 ibid, page 79. 31 Charles Dickens, 'The Goblins who Stole a Sexton', 'Nineteenth Century Stories of Passion and Mystery', Addison Wesley Longman Ltd, 1999, page 85. 32 ibid, page 85. 33 ibid, page 86. 34 ibid, page 86. 35 ibid, page 86. 36 ibid, page 91. 37 ibid, page 93. 38 ibid, page 95. 39 Arthur Conan Doyle, 'The Yellow Face', 'Nineteenth Century Stories of Passion and Mystery', Addison Wesley Longman Ltd, 1999, page 103. 40 ibid, page 109. 41 ibid, page 108. 42 ibid, page 107. 43 ibid, page 107. 44 ibid, page 107. 45 ibid, page 107. 46 ibid, page 105. 47 ibid, page 106. 48 ibid, page 104. 49 ibid, page 104. 50 Millicent Garrett Fawcett, 'Women's Suffrage', 1911. 51 Colbert I. King, 'Marriage in the March of Time', The Washington Post, February 12, 2005. 52 Arthur Conan Doyle, op. cit. page 101. 53 ibid, page 97. 54 Charles Dickens, op. cit. page 92. 55 ibid, page 90. 56 ibid, page 86. 57 ibid, page 91. 58 ibid, page 89. 59 ibid, page 86. 60 H.G.Wells, op. cit. page 78. 61 ibid, page 82. 62 ibid, page 84. 63 Dorothea Dix, http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/dorotheadix.html 1
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