I have chosen the following three stories ‘The Ostler’ written by Wilkie Collins, ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ written by Elizabeth Gaskell and ‘The Red Room’ written by H. G. Wells. All these stories are taken from the 19th century collection of mystery stories. In this, I will be discussing how the author holds the audience’s attention by using different types of techniques. I chose these three stories because they took my interest and I enjoyed them the most. They all share the same malicious mood. ‘The Ostler’ begins when a girl comes across the Ostler having a nightmare.
The girl goes off and tells another person, about her experience and is told that the Ostler normally suffers from these dreams. During the nightmare, a woman comes into his room and tries to kill him with a knife. When the Ostler goes home, he tells his mother of his experience. Seven years later, the Ostler meets a woman and they soon become engaged. The Ostler’s mother keeps telling him to leave her as she is of the same description as in his dream. The mother later on sees the women with a knife and tries to tell the Ostler, but he doesn’t believe her.
In the end, the Ostler’s dream almost becomes true, the women tries to kill him with a knife, but he manages to escape and the woman was never seen again. ‘The Red Room’ begins when a man is determined to go to the Red Room that the old people had told him not to because of the deaths and how they feared it. The young man, despite the warnings, went into the room. He has to keep lighting the candles in the room because they keep going out constantly. In the end he manages to knock himself unconscious.
When he awakes the next day, he is told that it is his own fears that have knocked him out. The Old Nurses Story’ begins with a nurse telling a group of children how one of the characters she nursed (Miss Rosamond) was an only child and orphan as her parents had died at an early age and she had taken care of her. Miss Rosamond and the nurse later have to move away, to live with Lord Furnival’s granddaughter. One night, when the nurse was almost asleep, she heard noises of someone playing the organ, and asked the next day who it was. She was told it as the ghost of Lord Furnival. It was also said that the ghost haunted the house. This scared the nurse.
Through out the story, many strange things take place, one of these being the disappearance of Miss Rosamont. The nurse went out to find her, but gets brought home by a man, who also finds Miss Rosamont. Miss Rosamont had been taken away from the house by Lady Furnival’s niece, who was a ghost and led her to another woman who was Lady Furnival’s sister. They had tried to kill her because they were jealous that Miss Rosamont would take their place in the household, because Lord Funival had forced them out the house. At the beginning of ‘The Ostler’, there is the young girl narrating the story.
The tension builds as the Ostler is having the nightmare, but it changes back as the book progresses and the story behind the nightmare is explained. When he meets the women he becomes engaged so there is very little tension, but it soon builds as the woman tries to kill him. ‘His eyes opened towards the left hand side of the bed, and there stood – The women of the dream, again? – No! His wife; the living reality, with the dream spectre’s face – in the dream spectre’s attitude; the fair arm up – the knife clasped in the delicate, white hand. ‘ This is a good example of how the tension build’s up.
This quote shows when the women tries to kill the Ostler. Wilkie Collins keeps the readers attention with the tension change and making the atmosphere feel uneasy. ‘The Red Room’ starts off with the quote ‘It will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me’. There is a lot of irony in this because at the end of the play, he manages to scare himself, rather than it being the ghosts. The author uses words like ‘dark and gloomy’ to describe the surrounding, setting’s and mysterious characters. The name of the story makes you think of danger referring to the colour red. H G Wells keeps the readers attention by starting it off with uneasy settings.
The tension is constantly high during this story because of the wording of the room, but during the end of the story, the tension begins to build even more when the young man enters the room, and has to keep re-lighting the candles. ‘I turned to where the flames were still dancing between the glowing coals, and splashing red reflections upon the furniture’. This is a good example of personification. They way the author describes the fire is very realistic. This made me want to read further. ‘The Old Nurses Story’ begins with no tension and is very calm with the nurse telling the children the story.
The tension slowly begins to increase towards the end when the main characters see the murder of the niece and sister ghosts. The settings are all described very spookily and it creates spooky moods during the story. Elizabeth Gaskell holds the audiences attention with the language she uses. ‘All at once the east door gave way with a thundering crash, as if torn open in a violent passion, and there came into that broad and mysterious light, the figure of a tall old man, with grey hair and gleaming eyes’. The use of words in this way, I found was very emotional, and it made me want to keep reading.
It kept taking you deeper and deeper, until you had reached the end. All the characters in the play are described very differently. The author used all of the main characters to make the story more interesting. In ‘The Ostler’, Issac is described as ‘a withered woebegone face. The eyebrows painfully contracted; the mouth fast set, and drawn down in the corners; the hollow cheeks sadly, and, as I cannot help fancying, prematurely grizzled hair’. The character seems very bothered, sad and lonely. When he meets the women, he suddenly becomes happy and acts very loyal when his mother tells him to leave her.
He want’s to devote his life to her. In ‘The Red Room’ the characters are all left nameless. This gives a feeling of there being no identity in the play and all very ghost-like. The young man is obviously very confident and does not show his fears of the room, even after all the warnings he still wants to enter. ‘It will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me’. This quote shows that he was a very brave man. The author describes the elderly characters as being very wise. ‘The old women sat staring hard into the fire’. This shows the old lady was sitting deep in thought and she sounds very knowledgeable.
In ‘The Old Nurses Story’ the nurse is very cautious protective and caring of Miss Rosamond. ‘I held her tight with all my strength; with a set will I held her’. She obviously feels she must look after Miss Rosamont. Miss Rosamont on the other hand, is very curious especially of the little girl ghost, yet at the same time scared. The Spectre of Lord Furnival is a powerful character, which at some point obviously dominated the household. He is described as a fierce, dour, old man. All three stories refer to ‘spectres’ or ghosts, bringing in a very mysterious mood to the stories.
But, all the plays have big differences in the way the tension is held and built up by the authors. All three stories keep the reader’s attention, mostly by the use of language, but all the techniques of language are very different. I enjoyed ‘The Ostler’ the most because it was an easy story to understand. I also enjoyed the language the author used to describe the settings. I liked the way the tension was used to keep me reading the story, and how the end result of the nightmare became true, with the woman trying to kill the husband finishing it off.