The Ways in Which Wilkie Collins Builds Up a Sense of Mystery and Suspense in His Short Stories
In this essay I will examine the ways in which Wilkie Collins builds
up mystery in suspense in three stories; 'A Terribly Strange Bed',
'The Black Cottage' and 'The Ostler'. I will closely compare these
stories in four sections; language for description, characterisation,
sentence structure and overall structure, using suitable evidence from
the text to support these ideas.
In 'A Terribly Strange Bed' an awkward, unwelcoming atmosphere is
described; "mute, weird tragedy", "the quiet in the room", "strangely
dulled". The gambling room is described as a dark and dreary place and
there is a sense of foreboding that something dreadful may occur,
because the narrator is isolated.
The description of the setting in 'The Black Cottage' is similar in
that the isolated feeling depicted on the first page describing the
scenery makes the reader wary of the absence of help and therefore the
danger of living on the lonely moor; "Curiously dark dingy look",
"lonely", "solitary". However there is also a sense of security in the
description of the cottage itself; "stoutly and snugly built", giving
some feeling of safety.
Similarly in 'The Ostler' a sense of mystery is also built up, but
instead Wilkie Collins uses pathetic fallacy. Here the rain and the
wind create an unnerving atmosphere. Although at first nothing
particularly unusual occurs, this, like the other stories; 'A Terribly
Strange bed' and 'The Black Cottage', creates a sense of foreboding,
because the reader is aware of Isaac's ill-luck. The description of
the inn where the main character, Isaac Scatchard, has his dream also
builds up suspense; "lonely roadside inn". This too creates an eerie,
uninviting atmosphere, because this lonely place is surrounded by
The characterisation of the old soldier in 'A Terribly Strange Bed'
creates an unpleasant image for the reader; "goggling bloodshot eyes",
"hoarse voice". However, the narrator is not worried about his
appearance; "These little personal peculiarities exercised, however,
no repelling influence on me". This suggests to the reader that the
narrator is quick to befriend and put his trust into a complete
stranger and maybe a little foolhardy. He is also described as a;
"suspicious specimen" which builds up a sense of mystery and suspense,
because the reader is immediately suspicious of this character.
Furthermore there is also a threatening atmosphere in the gambling
room created by the description of the other men in the room;
"haggard", "desperate" and "down to their last sou". The men are
described as misfits and this gives the impression that they are very
repulsive looking and the reader...