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Using a selection of short stories written before 1914, compare and contrast their authors' treatment of fate and/or the supernatural

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Introduction

Eleanor Stanford 10cf Using a selection of short stories written before 1914, compare and contrast their authors' treatment of fate and/or the supernatural I understand the term supernatural to be an event or being that is abnormal in some way and for which there is no rational explanation. Although traditionally the supernatural is confined to spiritual beings, such as ghosts, I perceive it to have a much wider meaning. I will be investigating how certain writers of short stories view the supernatural and how they adapt it into their stories. The authors I will be looking at in this essay are M.R.James, Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Perkins Gilman; their stories, Lost Hearts The Withered Arm and "Yellow Wallpaper," respectively. I will be focussing mostly on the supernatural in this essay, but will also investigate the question of fate briefly. Fate is the suggestion that all events happen for a reason, and that there is a greater power watching over us. Both these subjects are ones that greatly interested the Victorians, the era in which these stories are written. They were especially intrigued by the spiritual world, and the upper classes held s�ances, attempting to contact the dead. This preoccupation with the supernatural, and indeed fate, is one that emerges repeatedly in these short stories. The first story that I will be looking at is The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy. Hardy's style was very progressive for the time, but also reactionary; conservative, even, in certain aspects. His stories have a preoccupation with fate and the inevitability of death. The main supernatural aspect is the vision of Mrs Lodge that Rhoda sees. The vision taunts her, and Rhoda retaliates by grabbing its arm. The vision appears sitting on her chest whilst she is in bed: "The pressure of Mrs Lodge's person became heavier," and yet is not Mrs Lodge as she should be - "But the features were shockingly distorted, and wrinkled as by age." ...read more.

Middle

"Such a dear baby!" "He laughs at me so about this wallpaper!" Perkins Gilman also appeals to our sight frequently throughout the story, describing the exact colour of the wallpaper- "The colour is repellent, almost revolting: a smouldering unclean yellow." This means that we have an almost perfect mental picture of the wallpaper and the room, drawing us into the story even more, whether we want it to or not. She also writes very conversationally, so the reader feels more connected with her, as a character, than with any of the other characters. This relationship with the narrator starts to make the reader more and more uneasy the further the story progresses. She becomes with a mundane object: the wallpaper, a situation that everyone can relate to, although perhaps not in such an extreme case as hers. Her obsession has been blown out of all proportion, and the relationship Perkins Gilman has created between us starts to make us feel more uneasy the more erratic her behaviour becomes. The wallpaper is an invasion of the unnatural in an otherwise rational world, and this worries the reader that this could possibly happen to us. The wallpaper is so ordinary, commonplace, and yet also completely uniquely disturbing. As I mentioned before, the obsession with the wallpaper, and therefore the question of the supernatural is very cleverly woven into the story. At first, she despises the wallpaper: "that horrid paper!" but there is already the question of some power it may wield over her: "This paper looks at me as if it knew what vicious influence it had!" Her interest, that then turns to obsession is gradual in its transition, "I lie on this great immovable bed and follow that pattern by the hour." The transition is so gradual, that you hardly notice it is happening, until the final "scene," where behaviour becomes so erratic that the existence of madness and the supernatural is indisputable. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mr Abney certainly deserved the end that he received, and there is a feeling that he is getting his comeuppance: he is certainly a victim of karma. He has brutally murdered two innocent children, and he meets his end in the exact gruesome way: his heart ripped from his body. There is also a feeling that Stephen is fated the moment he arrives at Abney's house, from the imposing description of the house upon Stephen's arrival to Abney's repeated questioning of his age. Fate does not play a large role in Yellow Wallpaper, but this is perhaps as it falls under the same blanket of taboo that the unspoken quesitonof the supernatural does. However, simlar to in Lost Hearts, you feel the narrator is fated in her renting out the house right from the point that she commetns on its low price. The fact that her husband is very unwilling to move downstairs gives an omen of her being forced to stay in the wallpapered room, that fate is doing its best to subject it to her. In this story even more than the other two you feel the fate could almost be personified as toying with her, worrying and frustrating her in her wish to leave the room, until it finally gets bored and leaves her to her fate. Thus, I can conclude that all three authors treat the questions of fate and the supernatural very differently. In all the stories the supernatural is the underlying theme, and it is personified in the same way in all three: ghosts, or spirits. The Withered Arm and the Yellow Wallpaper both view it, essentially, in the conventional way common in fiction: as the evil of the story, the undoing of the characters. In Lost Hearts, however, the ghosts are viewed as the victims, which is unusual. In most aspects, Lost Heats and the Withered Arm contain many more similarities than with the Yellow Wallpaper. The contrast between all three stories' involvement and use of the supernatural is complex, but very intriguing. ...read more.

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