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The Black Veil and The Darkness Out There

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Literature Comparison English Coursework This piece compares and contrasts two short stories. One story is 'The Black Veil' and was written by Charles Dickens pre 1900. The other story is 'The Darkness Out There' and was written by Penelope Lively post 1900. The title 'The Black Veil' refers to the presentation and behaviour of the main female character in the story. During the tale she hides behind her veil, and the reason for her distress is also hidden. The veil symbolises the events, and the title reflects the gloom and the mystery of this story. The title for the other story is much more forthright. The reader knows the tale is about darkness in the world. However, the darkness not only refers to creepiness that can be found in a dark wood, but it also relates to a hidden type of darkness that can be found in a person, in this case an old lady. 'The Black Veil' is a story that keeps you guessing right until the very end. However, from the start the reader knows that something suspicious and tragic is about to happen. The lady in 'the black veil' seeks the help of a new young doctor, but her requests are confusing and bewildering. ...read more.


She 'beseeches the doctor's aid'; she sees the 'hopelessness of human assistance'; and there is a 'desperate earnestness in her manner that goes to the young man's heart'. The plot builds up by keeping the reader puzzled about the unknown person who needs the doctors help. The doctor cannot understand why he cannot help until the following morning, especially as the woman is in such a distressed state. The doctor explores various thoughts but cannot find a logical explanation. "He speculated a great deal and to very little purpose on the possible circumstances of the case." The mood of the story is further darkened by the images of Walworth, which is the location of the tragedy. The village is full of poverty, decay and 'questionable characters'. "His way lay across a marshy common, through irregular lanes, with here and there a ruinous and dismantled cottage fast falling to pieces with decay and neglect." The writer uses assonance and imagery that emphasises the dreariness and sense of no hope. "After plodding wearily through the MUD and MIRE." "A small low building, one story above the ground with a desolate and unpromising exterior." The sense of mystery is kept up as the doctor is told that he is 'too soon' to help the patient rather than too late. ...read more.


There are some things about the stories that are similar. There is an element of mystery and secrecy in them both which makes the reader want to continue reading and see what happens. The endings are both tragic as well. Both stories are about death, but one of the main characters causes the death, and the other one is the victim of a death. The tone of the stories are very different. The 'Black Veil' is much deeper and disturbing, and the characters are frightened, helpless and in great pain. The mood of The Darkness Out There is quite colourful and bright, but this actually covers up the evil act of the old woman. The stories are written at different times, and so the Dickens tale uses words that are formal and outdated. This compares with the chatty, colloquial language which goes on between the characters in the other story. The endings of both tales are very powerful. The reader discovers a dreadful tragedy has occurred. However, the Black Veil ending makes you feel sad as absolutely nothing could be done to save the womans son. In contrast, the jolly old woman turns out to be a murderer, and like the boy and the girl the reader ends up hating her. "It makes you want to throw up' he said, 'someone like that." Richard Hiom 01/05/2007 1 ...read more.

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