Comparing 19th Century Short Stories
In this essay I will write about the similarities and differences in the stories contained in my booklet. The three main stories I will focus on are The Speckled Band, The Tell Tale Heart and The Red Room.
The Victorian era was a great advancement in engineering and Science, thus forming a great rational movement. Many Victorians were concerned of the appearance of many people and society was divided into economical classes. This time was full of anxiety and many Victorians found it hard to come to terms with these changes and many writers mirrored the moods with their stories.
All stories create a sense of tension in a lot of stories by using the characters not having names this also makes it greatly mysterious. All stories do circle around irrational or rational thought, for example in TTH it has an irrational and insane character, and this is done well by focusing on the characters emotions since Edgar Allan Poe was a Romanist, TRR differs from this by focusing on the appearances of the characters e.g. ‘wrinkled’, ‘decaying yellow teeth’ and ‘monstrous’ and this turns him into more of an irrational character. However in the SB Holmes stays rational rather than turns irrational, he stays in a constant systematic thought. The characters in this story are greatly created around the occurrences in the Victorian era, for example his systematic and rational thought, plus his gentlemanly appearance and gentlemanly character. This also occurs in the MP when he refers to the British Empire when he was stationed out in India. Though SB does differ in some ways to the other stories it has a good irrational character which fills the gap, Dr Roylott, his wild nature makes this possible and the animals he lets free roam around the gardens of his manor, the animals are a baboon and a cheetah, these frightening animals give a sense of irrationality. This bares a similarity with the character in TTH. In TTR the main character goes from rational to irrational something that was not attempted in any other story, but in TTH the character stays irrational. One way in which DB differs from the other stories is the reference to religion, which is irrational e.g. ‘the good God for having so arranged’ she was thanking God, which is believed to be fictitious. All characters at the beginning of the stories all characters both begin with either rational or irrational views and are not swayed, yet in the TRR the character turns irrational, not following the suit of other characters for example Holmes stays rational and the character in TTH.
By looking at the stories I see that the different rational and irrational characters that carry a great importance to the stories, since they mirror the Victorian times, so they can relate to the Victorian people.
Diction is words of mystery and death, all stories focus on suspense and in a certain way. In TTH these words ‘dead, strange, dreadful’, are words of horror and death. This is repeated also in TRR, ‘inhuman, monstrous grotesque’, these are all words that deliver violence and horror. In the SB this differs since the words then give a sense of mania and mental illnesses e.g. ‘ferocious, mania, terror’.
Personification is constantly used to give mystery and irrationality; in TTR e.g. the mirrors wink and a blink on the wall; but in the SB ominous signs and pathetic fallacy give the setting of mystery and terror e.g. the wind was howling outside, splashing against the windows.
In TTH repetition is used extensively to represent insecurity e.g. steadily, steadily, steadily and cautiously, cautiously, cautiously, but the language in the SB gives long descriptive sentences, to describe the story, for example, the whole first paragraph. It does have a similarity with TMP by using pathetic fallacy e.g. ‘the night was cold and wet’ this helps add to the irrationality. The human senses are also appealed to a lot, Sight is used a lot in all of the stories for example; in TSM ‘red light’ is used vastly, this presents irrationality since red is the colour of blood and gives a strong sensed of horror Colours are also used a lot in TRR ‘red and blacks’ these show death and eeriness, whilst other stories focus on light and darkness, this also gives ideas of life and death. A variety of sentence lengths are use as well. TTH to establish a state of tension and insanity, in TRR to establish the characters growing insanity and supernatural, but in the SB establishes the importance of detail and Holmes’s rational approach. In the SB the entire opening paragraph has this contained init. Sibilance is also repeated in the TRR e.g. sent; snatched, stumbled this also creates a frightening scene, as S is the noise a snake makes.
In the RR Wells focuses on describing the scene very well with words like, draughty, subterranean, whilst Doyle focuses on characters to set the irrational scene using Dr Roylott’s anger and the viscous animals he lets freely roam around his grounds. Wells does this also with his elderly irrational characters at the beginning.
An occurrence were both these stories differ is the pathetic fallacy to build up a setting of suspense e.g. SB-‘the wind was howling outside’, yet in the TRR uses it hardly at all. They do have a similarity were the SB and TRR is the long descriptive sentences to set the scene and describe; yet the MP has short sentences which give more mystery. The rational setting differs from all the other stories since this has a systematic and investigative approach in it, relying more on the signs and clues than personification like in TRR. The Romanism of Allan Poe gives more of emotional setting and some words like ‘agony, ached’ set a scene of pain and suffering. DB differs from the other stories because of the reference to racism, this is quit ironic that The Victorian era was meant to be a time of advancement but in this book they still refer to the racial prejudice which existed in the South of America these views add to the irrational setting of the story because it seems unfair and insane to believe that one race is superior to another. Mostly I believe that all the authors strangely use characters as scene setter.
You can see that all the openings to the SB, TTH and TRR all follow the same introduction describing the characters or their emotions towards irrationality or rationality e.g. TTH-‘Very dreadfully nervous I had been and am’.
TRR-‘That it will take a very tangible ghost to scare me’.
SB-‘He always found a logical basis’.
The endings of the TRR and the SB are all very final since you know what happens to the characters, yet in TTH you don’t know what happens to the characters.
TRR-‘There is fear in that room of hers’
SB-He feels guilty about Roylott’s death
But the TTH is a very open ended story.
To conclude the essay I have found that terror and tension are built up by using the irrational characters and by the constant personification e.g. ‘The mirrors winked’ and ‘Almighty God had dealt cruelty’. Terror is built up in similar way but by using ‘wrinkled’ and ‘decaying yellow teeth’ (images of death). I also find that references to Victorian society are good because they appeal to the readers very widely, fro example ‘Calcutta, India (British Empire) and ‘Holmes ran her over with a quick glance (Concerned with appearances. But overall I have found that all stories differ from one to another.