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What featuresare disturbing or reassuring in your selection of 19th century texts?

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Introduction

What features are disturbing or reassuring in your selection of 19th century texts? The nineteenth century produced many of the very best authors of all time in all genres such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and H.G. Wells. Although they made fame in their originality, many factors coincided in their writing and formed the base for characters and storylines. It was these influences which in a way made their stories and novels more interesting to delve into as they opposed disturbing and reassuring features to create points of discussion. During the 19th century, many controversial changes took place. In terms of science, there was a significant rise in interest and development especially after the outbreak of many diseases, none more so than the deadly bacteria of cholera. Cholera was an infectious epidemic and had many types though all of which were infectious and many of which were most disturbingly fatal. Cholera caused slowing of the blood circulation and was not caused by any form of consumption but was essentially spread from immigrants who had caught the disease in filthy, overcrowded ships. We see this particular aspect heavily dominant in 'The Stolen Bacillus' by H.G. Wells overlapping with other prevailing issues such as personality disorders and the inevitable destabilisation of society through anarchism and the will to oppose moral rights. Other factors which affected the content of our other two chosen texts - 'The Adventure of the Speckled Band' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and 'Hop frog' by Edgar Allan Poe - were also very prominent in the 19th century. ...read more.

Middle

Helen Stoner and the anarchist are both very disturbing through the impression we are given of them by their appearance. They are shown to be very worn-down for very different reasons and so we can view the links and contrasts very easily. Doyle describes Helen Stoner on her meeting of Holmes as 'a pitiable state of agitation, her face all drawn and grey, with restless, frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal. Her features and figure were those of a woman of thirty, but her hair was short with premature grey, and her expression was weary and haggard.' This demonstrates how she appears to be very fatigued and distressed and her shaking emphasises her fear for something. She adds to this feeling by wearing a very dull, lifeless black, covering her face with a black veil to hide from as much as possible. This is very disturbing for us to read as we feel her vulnerability and seclusion from all around her and the feeling of a complete lack of influence on society. In contrast, Wells allows the anarchist to take a different approach in resolving this lack of influence, equally disturbing for very different reasons. The anarchist is described as 'pale' with 'lank black hair and deep grey eyes, the haggard expression and nervous manner, the fitful yet keen interest', as well as a desperate sentiment of not being noticed. ...read more.

Conclusion

How an action or description of a character is written can greatly affect the atmosphere emitted. For example, in 'The Stolen Bacillus' the actions of the anarchist can be made more disturbing by how he is described in doing it. Instead of 'looking at the little tube', Wells writes 'devouring the little tube' which makes it much more effective in creating a disturbing character. An example from 'Hop Frog' would be when he had just hauled the king and his ministers high into the air hanging from the chandelier: 'Leave them to me!' now screamed Hop Frog, his shrill voice making itself heard. One can imagine his shrill voice ring through the hall of real cunningness and terror adding to the distressing touch of this murder. And finally, in 'The Adventure of the Speckled Band', we see the common structure of all detective stories where we are given all the subtle clues that Holmes gets and immediately we enter a game where we almost are attempting to outsmart Holmes. We feel reassured at how Holmes always appears to observantly pick out every clue we miss and how the tension of wanting to know how the murder was committed is always revealed at the very end. I feel that concluding all the examples of disturbing and reassuring features, there were more disturbing features in all but the 19th century was a period of great change, which can always be unsettling, and so it is of no surprise that this sentiment was carried on into the writing of that era. Edmund Leung ...read more.

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