Pre 1900 Prose

Topic: CultureSubculture
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Last updated: May 17, 2019

All throughout the three texts I have found that there is a common theme. The supernatural. The three texts contain an array of detail about this theme. Throughout these there is a significant amount of death, ghosts, witchcraft and superstition, all linked to the unexplained.

The themes would have been commonplace during the times when these stories were written as people had strongly believed in these. Also the stories seemingly touch the theme of fate. The first text that I shall talk about is ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens.

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This is a very tense and intriguing story. The story is basically about a signalman who has met with a stranger.The stranger is curious about the signalman.

He wants to know more about him. Gradually the stranger finds out that the signalman has been contacted by the spectre. The spectre is a ghost who appears to the signalman on occasions when there is a tragedy to happen. It has already appeared twice, once waving its hands like the way the stranger had done. At this occasion a very serious train crash happened very soon after. On the other occasion the spectre was in a mourning state, and again, soon after a lady dies after being thrown of the train. The signalman is very uncomfortable about this.A third time the spectre appears to the signalman, but this time the spectre is motionless.

The signalman becomes very frantic and is desperate to know what is about to happen. After the meeting with the stranger, the following morning the signalman sees the spectre again. He goes towards the spectre not aware of the train coming towards him.

The train driver waves frenziedly, exactly the same way as the spectre had done and also in the same way as the spectre he mourned. The stranger who had come to meet the signalman realised that the acts of the spectre was a premonition of the signalman’s death.The story was indeed to my liking and was very enjoyable. I found it quite interesting and intriguing and it had certainly grasped my attention.

The opening sequence set the seen quite perfectly. It describes the character of the signalman as a very strange, gloomy and mysterious character. The stranger calls out to the signalman but he looks down towards the tunnel. This gives a clue to what the story is about. It made me think about the next sequence. What was to happen next? Why did the signalman look down towards the tunnel and not towards the stranger? The suspense of the story was brilliant.Throughout the whole play this was evident.

Dickens creates this terrifically and makes you wonder about the next sequence. I found this enjoyable because of the imagery that Dickens uses and the way that it builds for the rather clever ending. Dickens manages to hide some clever clues within the story which leads up towards the final ending.

An example of this is the very first line. “halloa! Below there! ” Here we manage to see the words of the spectre, which have no knowledge of, at the very beginning of the play spoken by the stranger. Dickens cleverly inserts this.Dickens also shows this hen the stranger and the signalman converse. The signalman thinks that he has seen the stranger before near the red light, the same spot where the spectre appeared.

At this we are led to believe that the signalman is a strange person and that there is something unusual going on. “Where? ” ‘He pointed at the red light he had looked at. ‘ “There? ” ‘Yes. ‘ Another very significant clue is when the signalman believes that the bell is ringing when it is not and then looks out towards the red light. Here we can see that this is a sign of the spectre, only noticeable on a subsequent reading.This is clarified when the signalman tells the stranger later that this was a sign of the spectre.

In this way Dickens subtly manages to insert clever clues like these throughout the story. Even though this is a short story Dickens slightly bends the rules by describing the scene in detail. He builds the atmosphere by setting the scene in a damp, dark and gloomy cutting. “…. excluding all view but a strip of sky; .

.. crooked prolongation of this great dungeon;… gloomy red light, .

.. gloomier entrance… black tunnel, .

.. there was a barbarous, depressing and forbidding air. So little sunlight…

arthy, deadly smell; … so much cold wind rushed, … struck chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.

“Dickens uses a lot of negative imagery to create this gloomy unwelcome feel of the cutting. The signalman is also described as a mysterious and daunting character. He is described as a ‘dark sallow man with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows’. This imagery of the signalman describes him as an unwelcoming figure. The Dickens story does stick to the characteristics of a short story.

There are a very limited number of characters and the story only reverberates around the signalman, the stranger and the spectre.None of these characters have names, another characteristic of a short story. In a short story there is no use for names.

There is no need to give any unneeded information in a short story and Dickens’ is no exception. In one sentence the stranger leaves and he returns the following night. Dickens did this to effect so as to there is no need for unnecessary information.

This story is brimming with the signs of Literary Tradition. The appearance of the spectre always occurs at a time of darkness, evidence of Literary Tradition. The signalman is described as a dark character.

The accidents happening after the sighting of the spectre is also a characteristic of the Literary Tradition. ‘The Signalman’ does take into account the Historical context of the story and this is proved by the inclusion of the Steam Train. This adds to the vibrancy of the story. I think that this story was generally very much enjoyable and interesting as a whole. All the descriptive devices of the story work together to form a very intriguing and interesting story which embellishes you within the story. The story is also a very engaging account of the life of the signalman, the character whom the spectre is in contact with.Also there is a video that was made of this excellent story. However after I had viewed this film I was rather very disappointed and felt the story had been let down.

In my opinion I believe that the video was a disgrace compared to the story. Dickens had described the scene magnificently and had set the tone of the story whereas the film version seems to point out that the cutting was a happy and peaceful place. There was a lot of sunshine and flowers in the cutting in he film version but the story had a vision of gloom and darkness.I think that Dickens would have been ashamed and let down as a result of the film. The second text that I shall talk about is ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ by W W Jacobs.

The story has a very powerful meaning to it, which teaches us about the consequences of taking risks in life. The story also focuses on the subject of fate and destiny. Basically this story is about a family who have been visited by an army officer named Morris. So Mr White is intrigued by this charm, a monkey’s paw, after hearing from the soldier about its special powers.

Now Mr White wanted the paw.Morris was very reluctant to give this away, however in the end he gave it to the rather persistent Mr White, even though Morris warns Mr White of the consequences. Once the charm was in Mr White’s possession he wished for the mortgage on his house to be paid off, the money amounting to two hundred pounds. The very sinister part of this however was that the following day Mr Whites son, Herbert, died at the factory, and then Mr White received compensation, totalling two hundred pounds! This was the exact amount that Mr White had asked for. Mrs White was very distressed and would not accept the fact that her son was dead.

She pressured Mr White into wishing for her son to come back. Mr White knowing that Herbert would arrive in a horrendous state was extremely reluctant to use the charm. However in the end he gave in to her demands and wished for Hebert to come back. When Herbert had just knocked on the door, Mr White frantically was looking for the charm and just about when the door was to be opened he wished that Herbert was to return to his grave. The story was written superbly. It revives our childhood fantasies of wishes. The story was very effective and thought-provoking.The suspense of the story was quite dramatic and was enjoyable.

The story has very delicate and important morals within it. This adds to the story as a whole. There is a lot of tension and mystery within the story itself, again adding to the suspense of the story.

The story engages the reader and does not fail to please. W W Jacobs manages to hide clues within the story which leads towards the ending. One such instance is when Herbert bets that he will never see the money, a seemingly innocent assumption at first.

“Well, I don’t see the money” “and I bet I never shall”Another such instance where Jacobs shows us his ability to do this is when Herbert sees the horrific image in the fire, of himself. ‘The last face was so horrible he gazed at it in amazement’ Furthermore another clue is noted when Herbert tells his father not to use the money before he comes back. However Herbert does not get to see the money. “Well don’t break into the money before I get back.

” Jacobs does not give serious attention to description. He sticks to the rules of a short story and his descriptions are short and snappy. Jacobs does not give a detail description of the characters.However he has managed to set the scene quite cleverly which compensates for the loss of description. An example of the setting of this atmosphere is the arrival of Sergeant Morris and the way in which the paw is described and introduced.

Also in this scene the mention of fakirs, who are supposed holy men, believed to possess magical powers adds to the tension. “It had a spell put on it by a fakir. ” “.

.. fate rules peoples lives,… those who interfere with it did so to their sorrow” Within this scene the whole moment of the unnatural atmosphere of this story is captured.

This story certainly takes heed of the characteristics of a short story incorporated within it. The story has only a few names and there is no evidence of useless information. The story only gives out what is needed. An example of this is that there is no unneeded information for example the travels of the sergeant. In a novel this would have been included however as this is a short story there is no mention of it.

This story certainly includes the Literary Tradition. The opening paragraph states that at night outside it was cold and wet, a very common example of the Literary tradition.Another example of this in this story is that the first wish was made at night in front of the flickering flames of the fireplace. As well as this when the at the last minute when the mutilated son was just about to enter the house, Mr White manages to make the final wish.

This in itself is a very common example of this tradition. The story is a very thought-provoking and excellent story which explores the dangers and consequences of greed and risk. The story also make us think of ourselves and the issue of fate and destiny.It explores the question of death, and debates the fact that once your time is up that is the end for you and there is no coming back. The third text which I shall talk about is ‘The Withered arm’ by Thomas Hardy. The story touches the issues of the time which would be dismissed nowadays. It explores witchcraft, superstition and black magic. These ideals were commonplace at the time of Hardy.

The story is about a farmer who has just recently married a Lady by the name of Gertrude Lodge, and about the milk lady named Rhoda Brook who has bored the son of Farmer Lodge .The story is focused around the vision that Rhoda has of Gertrude and about the injury that Rhoda somehow has inflicted on Gertrude. In a dream Rhoda grabs Gertrude’s hand and swings her away from her bed. However this affliction however in some manner has took place in real life. Gertrude’s arm becomes very bad and the doctor cannot do anything about it.

To Rhoda’s surprise her and Gertrude become friends, even though se had this enmity for her. When Gertrude tells her of the time of this affliction, Rhoda becomes shocked. She even thinks of herself as a witch, after taking notice of the rumours.Gertrude becomes desperate for a cure and decides to meet Conjuror Trendle with Rhoda’s assistance. However Rhoda is very reluctant to go at first but then she is persuaded by Gertrude eventually. When they meet Trendle, he tells Gertrude that she has an enemy, and that enemy which she finds out was Rhoda. Rhoda leaves the town. Gertrude becomes very desperate for a cure and than so she decides that she will go back to Trendle.

He prescribes her the medicine of the ‘turnin o’ blood’ Gertrude has to touch the neck of someone who has just been hanged.So she sets off to a place called Casterbridge where a hanging is to take place. She is just about to touch the neck of this person when she realises it is Rhoda’s son. Rhoda becomes very distressed and then lunges at Gertrude. Gertrude faints and never recovers.

Farmer Lodge gives up his farm, and Rhoda goes back to her old way of living. The text was much longer than the other two, and whereas in the previous two stories there was a strong link to the characteristics of a short story this one does not necessarily follow these rules.This enables Hardy to present us with much more information and allows him to detail the story in a more extra depth. However even though it was long this did not take away the enjoyment of the story. It enabled Hardy to describe the setting of the story more clearly and added o the atmosphere of the story. The story was very enjoyable as a result to this and was a very engaging read. The length of the story allowed it to produce a more detailed picture of the scenario, which added to the content of the story.

Hardy elegantly describes the characters and the setting of the story.This enables Hardy to compensate for the length of the story which might have been seen as a weakness. A very good example of this is when he describes the opening scene about the milkmaid, Rhoda. He firstly gives the people’s view Rhoda, something not seen in the previous stories. As well as this he describes the milking process in the first scene. A very detailed description of Rhoda’s cottage is given as well as this, which Hardy excellently manages to weave in within the first chapter.Also alongside his descriptions Hardy manages to incorporate a metaphor.

‘… built of mud-walls, … ashed by many rains, .

.. here and there in the thatch above a rafter showed like a bone protruding through the skin.

‘ Hardy describes in great detail all the main characters. An excellent example of this is the description of Gertrude which he describes in a very detailed manner. ‘Her face… fresh in colour, .

.. totally different quality, soft and evanescent, like the light under a heap of rose-petals. ‘ Again we can see the use of the metaphor once again by Hardy. This story barely sticks to the regulations of a short story, however it is still regarded as a short story.Even though it does not stick to this the story still manages to deliver. Within this story there is not much evidence of the Literary Tradition, however the frightful nightmare that Rhoda encounters takes place at night.

The story does take into account the Social and Historical context. This is proved by the use of ‘horse and trap’, something that was commonplace in those days, and something which would be seen very rarely today. As well as this the story looks at the Social divide amongst the people, the Class System.Hardy cleverly includes this as to raise awareness of these issues in his own life and era. There was a video made of this story, which was not very much to my liking. The video fails to live up to the story, however it does try to portray the story how it is. In my opinion it is not as bad as the video of the Signalman, however I still believe it should have been made better.

Hardy would have been rather disappointed by the making of such a film. This story was a very mystifying text which looks deep into the social divide in a very subtle way.It also explores the belief of the people of the time and incorporates all this into one very good story. I liked ‘The Withered Arm’ because of the depth of information and description that was present in this text.

It manages to build the scene and adds to the tension without losing the interest of the reader and contains a rather illusive twist at the end f the story which was very much to my liking. The other two stories were very good indeed but I preferred ‘The Withered Arm’ solely because of the descriptive and detailed content.

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