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The supernatural has always been a popular ingredient in literature. Looking at two short stories, 'The Vampire of Kaldenstein' by Frederick Cowles and 'The Monkey's Paw' by W.W Jacobs, discuss what part the supernatural plays in each story.

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Introduction

GCSE 'Wider Reading' Coursework Essay The supernatural has always been a popular ingredient in literature. Looking at two short stories, 'The Vampire of Kaldenstein' by Frederick Cowles and 'The Monkey's Paw' by W.W Jacobs, discuss what part the supernatural plays in each story. The dictionary definition of the word supernatural is "attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature." Today, interest in the supernatural genre is mainly focused on two categories of beings, the good and the evil. There are many comic book and film heroes such as "Superman" who are good supernatural characters and fight to help the world; at the same time there are many evil supernatural beings, which mainly appear in horror films, such as vampires whose sole purpose is to kill for their own gain. There is of course a minority of supernatural beings and events that are neither good nor evil such as the children's book character "Vlad the Drac" and the appearance of crop circles. The supernatural has fascinated people throughout time and very likely will continue to do so. The primary reason for this is people's fear of the supernatural; as they do not know much about the supernatural they do not understand it. However, it is because of this that people become curious and do read and watch so much material on the supernatural; they hope that they will gain knowledge and understanding and hence overcome their fears. There is also a level of enjoyment at being scared. The supernatural is commonly used to create suspense and add atmosphere to books, films and plays. ...read more.

Middle

By being ambiguous the author gives the opportunity for the reader to put the whole story down to chance; because readers can rationalise the story they are drawn into it. Frederick Cowles suspends our disbelief in two ways. The primary way he does this is the exact opposite to W. W. Jacobs's method; he leaves no opportunity for the supernatural events to be rationalised. A good example of this is in the line, "As the drops touched the leering corpses they appeared to writhe in agony, to swell as though they were about to burst, and then, before our eyes, they crumbled into dust." By writing about all the events as if they were fact the author leaves no choice but for the reader to believe and hence be drawn into the story. The other method Frederick Cowles uses to suspend the reader's disbelief is by writing in the first person. By writing in the first person the reader learns to trust the narrator as we see he is a level-headed person capable of making rational decisions. By doing this we automatically believe whatever the narrator tells us. The methods used by the author to suspend our disbelief also want to make us read on. Because the events in "The Monkey's Paw" are so ambiguous we want to read on to confirm in our minds the cause of the incidents that can be taken to be supernatural or merely natural. The technique used in the "The Vampire of Kaldenstein" is very different. As it is written in first person we are intrigued about the fate of our narrator. ...read more.

Conclusion

and doubting the supernatural in "The Monkey's Paw" and in "The Vampire of Kaldenstein" the narrator is punished for being stubborn and refusing to take the advice offered to him. In both stories, the characters have to want the supernatural to have an effect on their lives. Mr White has to wish and the narrator has to enter the castle of his own free will before supernatural happenings occur. Although the supernatural is used for similar purposes within both texts it is how the author manipulates it which determines how effective it is. The supernatural events are stereotypical and hence predictable in "The Vampire of Kaldenstein," which ruins its effectiveness. There are two other factors in the story which ruin the suspense, the first being the title "The Vampire of Kaldenstein." we immediately know that the supernatural will be used in the form of a vampire. The second is the fact that it is written in the first person. Because of this we know that the main character in the story survives his experiences and is happy about the outcome. In "The Monkey's Paw," although the setting of the scene is very stereotypical of a supernatural story, "Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Labumum Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly", the supernatural events are unique and unpredictable. The reader does not expect Herbert to die as a result of the wish. I think the supernatural has been used far more effectively in "The Monkey's Paw" where it gives suspense, atmosphere and also enjoyment to the story. Joseph Skelker Supernatural Coursework - 1 - ...read more.

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