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Short, entertaining stories were extremely popular within the Victorian era, and a number of popular writers emerged, captivating their Victorian audience with their suspenseful tales. Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens

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Introduction

Prose Study Short, entertaining stories were extremely popular within the Victorian era, and a number of popular writers emerged, captivating their Victorian audience with their suspenseful tales. Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens were all respected authors in this era, and they produced three of the most tense short stories ever created; 'The Old Nurse's Story,' 'The Black Cottage' and 'The Black Veil', which cater for Victorian tastes. Therefore, each story boasts a moral that the writers have chosen to present in equally effective ways. These taught the Victorians how to live their lives, and followed the teachings of the Christian faith, while also revealing the writers' social concerns. Each writer has chosen their own distinctive ways to present their Victorian story, and the openings are designed to attract their readers into their tale. 'The Old Nurse's Story' has been written in first person, in order to convey the feelings of Hester, to the readers that she was 'mighty proud' to be selected as a 'nurse-maid'. 'The Black Cottage' uses Bessie for first person narration, and her feelings about her 'foster-sister' and how she will remember the 'kindness and friendship' 'gratefully to the last day of' her 'life'. This gives the readers Bessie's feelings about Mrs Knifton, describing Bessie's point of view, to ensure that the readers automatically feel the same way about Mrs Knifton, devotion and gratitude. Collins and Gaskell have seen first person as an effective way of setting the scene as they both have begun with family history. In 'The Black Cottage', Bessie, 'must take you back to the time after,' her, 'mother's death,' which sums up Bessie's family history quite quickly. On the other hand, 'The Old Nurse's Story' has Hester dragging out her history over one very large paragraph. Gaskell has chosen Hester's history and the details of the family that she is in service to as relevant information to spend a lot of time on, whilst Collins feels that this information is irrelevant to his plot, and only requires one sentence of the story. ...read more.

Middle

There is many a 'desperate' character in this area, whom the upper-class readers would have feared, so they would empathise with the vulnerable doctor, wondering whether he may stumble upon one of these 'depraved characters'. What increases the tension is that a neighbourhood could be left 'entirely to the mercy of the moon and stars'. This shows how poor the neighbourhood is, as it has not even street lighting of its own. Authorial interjection from Dickens here tells us that our main character, the 'doctor', is of 'strong mind' and full of 'courage' and that even the 'boldest reader' would be intimidated. This is a very good way of increasing the tension, but of course could not be used within either of the other stories due to their narrative choice. Dickens here is directly addressing the readers, like one would in everyday speech, in order to tell them how to feel. In this case they should feel in awe of this man's bravery, as Dickens tells them to do so, and that the doctor is so brave to face such a tense situation. Dickens' interjection is postpones the unveiling of what lies beyond the door, increasing the suspense as with every word the readers are agonising more and more about what is lurking. Dickens purposely waits for the reader's suspense to peak before he finally shows them who opens the door, where the likely inhabitants are all 'filthy', 'depraved', 'desperate' and 'questionable'. Prior to the interjection, Dickens has increasingly built up the likelihood of the doctor being killed while in this area where all was 'isolated' and not even the 'police' could help. During the interjection these characters are built up even more, leaving the audience anticipating the arrival of one of them at the door, and what he will do to 'our' vulnerable 'doctor'. Similar to 'The Black Veil', 'The Old Nurse's Story' also uses a journey to build up suspense, when 'there was no answer' from Miss Rosamond. ...read more.

Conclusion

Again, Gaskell ends her tale with a moral, which the story has influenced and that her Victorian readers can relate to their own life. Gaskell sums up the story with another overview, like Dickens and Collins did in their story, except that Gaskell doesn't slip out of Hester's role and report the occurrences but uses direct speech to voice her very subtle moral; ' "What is done in youth can never be undone in age!".' The direct speech used here makes the moral seem like it applies more to real life, as Gaskell has continuously used direct speech to bring the situation to life, in the eyes of the reader. Personally, I feel that this ending to Gaskell's tale successfully manages to draw the readers into every word which the heroine of this amazing tale, Hester, archaically presents. The suspense is continuously increased throughout the tense tale up to the superb climax, making the readers feel as though they are there, being quite chilling and Gothic. The beginning of this story is quite confusing though, I felt, and the best beginning out of the three tales studied was Dickens' 'The Black Veil'. This immediately begins working on the tension and suspense, rather than beginning the whole family history. I felt like this presented its themes clearly and maintained them throughout as well as adding to the tension in the long run, and building in a few small anticlimaxes throughout, in order to engage the reader. Even so, I feel it is based too heavily on the moral and it felt like the story wasn't meant to entertain. The nameless doctor didn't appear personalised enough to draw you into the story, as 'The Black Cottage's' narrator did. The female, resolute character of Bessie was the best character within the three stories, I feel, as she was brave, role model material, yet personable too. It seemed like she wasn't too perfect to be unrealistic, and so made me favour Bessie's adventure in Collins' tale, which constantly kept you enthralled by the tremendous story with its regular leaps in tension and suspense. ...read more.

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