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What strategies did nineteenth century writers use to build dramatic tension?

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Introduction

What strategies did nineteenth century writers use to build dramatic tension? Refer closely to the following stories: * "The Stolen Bacillus" by H.G. Wells * "Napoleon and the Spectre" by C. Bronte * "The Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle * "The Half Brothers" by Elizabeth Gaskell * "The Poor Relations Story" by Charles Dickens The nineteenth century was a time of growing interest in scientific discoveries, methods of travel and crime detection, new knowledge about links between germs and illness, and continued suspicion into the causes of certain illnesses. The writers of the nineteenth century used to incorporate these themes into their work and produced many enjoyable short stories which proved to be very popular with the readers. The writers used many different strategies to build dramatic tension and capture the reader's interest from the very start, which included techniques such as red herrings, a twist in the tail, dramatic events and a mystery to be solved. H.G. Wells writes about the theme of scientific discoveries and links between germs and illness in "The Stolen Bacillus", where we see the interest and fascination the Anarchist has in the tube of Cholera and the pleasure and delight the bacteriologist has in informing him about it. Crime detection through new methods was an important theme of the age, and Conan Doyle writes of a mystery in "The Speckled Band". In the same story he also manages to address the developing fascination in travelling abroad, which would have captured the reader's interest and left them wanting to read on. Many people were also interested in what caused certain illnesses. A great majority were still unaware of what caused some illness and therefore would attribute it to devil possession. Bronte explores this in her story "Napoleon and the Spectre", where she is able to create a lot of dramatic tension and suspense in her story by introducing the genre of horror. ...read more.

Middle

However, just as before as in "The Stolen Bacillus", Bronte too dissipates the tension at the end of the story at its climax by actually revealing the 'twist in the tail'. In this story the 'twist' is that in fact Napoleon has been dreaming and has been sleepwalking, as opposed to the event actually happening. Again, Bronte, just as Wells did, has used this technique effectively to entertain the reader and end the story successfully. \In this story Bronte has focused mainly upon the horror genre, but has also incorporated the theme linking mystery with suspicion, madness and devil possessions - again this would have also greatly affected the readers of the nineteenth century in a positive way, as it was a topic of great interest. Bronte skilfully starts the story by describing Napoleon as a heroic character but gradually as the story progresses she degrades his character and exposes him as stupid by the end. She illustrates how he has been misled by thinking it was all actually happening, when really it was just a bad dream. In the nineteenth century, the female readers would have respected Bronte as she was making a stand by showing her own opinion of the emperor Napoleon through her story. It was much unseen of for a female writer of the nineteenth century to express her views about certain important topics, therefore as a result of Bronte writing "Napoleon and the Spectre" she would have gained a lot of respect from many females of the time. Another admired writer of the nineteenth century was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle writes about the popular theme of crime detection and mystery in "The Speckled Band", and also describes how travelling abroad was of growing interest to the public in the nineteenth century. Just as Wells and Bronte have, Conan Doyle also uses many strategies and techniques to create and build dramatic tension within the story. ...read more.

Conclusion

Conan Doyle also used pathetic fallacy to add suspense. I personally think that all the writers chose their techniques carefully to build suspense and tension within their stories and have successfully done so. In my opinion I think that each writers use of vivid descriptions worked well in each story, especially Conan Doyle's' striking descriptions of Dr. Roylott - these intense descriptions helped the reader to feel more involved in the story and in effect more scared of the character. I personally think that Wells' use of a twist in the tail was most successful, as it not only dissolved all the once felt tension of the story, but changed it into something comical. I also think that Bronte uses the genre of horror very effectively to create added tension and suspense to her story. This genre was of immense interest to the people of the nineteenth and therefore would have been popular with many. Even though these stories are from the nineteenth century, I feel that they do still have enduring qualities that would still be of interest to today's readers. "The Speckled Band" still appeals to today's readers because it is a mystery/detective story. "The stolen Bacillus" would still catch people's attention today because it is along the theme of epidemics and terrorists - which is a subject of great concern in today's society. "Napoleon and the Spectre" would interest people today because we are still fascinated by the supernatural and things we do not fully understand. "The Half Brothers" is a story of family sacrifices; which is a subject that would still touch people and would be of appeal to people today. Lastly, "The Poor Relations Story" is about using your imagination and escaping away from everything. This is likely to be how some people of today feel, and therefore they would easily relate to it and want to read on. Overall I think that all the writers used many techniques and strategies to great effect to create suspense and build tension in their stories, and most importantly to keep the interest of the reader. ...read more.

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