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Tension And Fear In The Old Nurse's Tale And The Red Room

2008 words - 8 pages

Examine how Elizabeth Gaskell and H.G Wells build up tension and
convey fear in two gothic short stories; The Old Nurse’s Tale and
The Red Room.

Gothic fiction emerged in the late eighteenth Century. A Gothic story
is a style of fiction characterized by the use of desolate or remote
settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent incidents. In most gothic
stories the writer challenges the intersection of the supernatural and
the rational and inspires dread and horror. In this essay I will
examine how the writers of both ‘The Red Room’ (H.G Wells) and ‘The
Old Nurse’s Tale’ (Elizabeth Gaskell) build up tension and convey
fear. I will compare both stories by examining the similarities and
differences between the two as well as using my personal opinion to
decide the most successful story which builds up the most tension and
most fear.

Changing the mood during a story makes it more exciting and less
predictable which captivates the reader’s interests and builds up a
great amount of tension. Both stories show evidence of significant
mood change, which created a successful amount of suspense when I read
them.

‘The Red Room’ effectively begins in medias-res, which is very
effective as from the very first sentence there is an immediate cause
for concern. It also effectively attracts the immediate attention from
the reader’s interest and from the very beginning we become aware the
story is gothic and are instantaneously caught up in the suspense of
the story. The story begins at a steady climax and rises up into a
state of absolute climax. Throughout the story it has many jumps of
suspense until the reader is left shrouded in it. There are
supernatural occurrences from the very beginning of the story and they
become more intense with time until the narrator is left in ‘a state
of considerable nervous tension’. In contrast with the darkness the
story ends in daylight-normality, away from the deep, dark, chilling
passageways and the power of the darkness in the room, so therefore
the ending is not gothic. The ending of the story has a slight twist.
One might expect a more conventional ghost at the end of the story but
what is found in the room is fear itself. I did not think the ending
was very effective as it provided a rational explanation for the
events in the story and so did not leave the reader in a state of
fear. However, the ending did effectively allow the reader to think
about what was being conveyed and perhaps helped the reader to relate
more to the ending.

In contrast; in ‘The Old Nurse’s Tale’, Elizabeth Gaskell uses a
journey to build up suspense, in order to increase tension in a slow
and steady climb. This is an effective technique as it enables the
reader to become more attached to the characters, so the character’s
feelings are more likely to be mirrored in the reader’s mind. We also
become more familiar with the story as it provides more background
information. The supernatural...

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