In this essay I will be comparing which of the two stories is the more effective. The stories I shall be comparing are The Superstitious Man’s Story written by Thomas Hardy in 1894, and Night Fears by L. P. Hartley in 1924. Society had changed between the times they were written and People in the 20th Century have a better scientific knowledge of understanding psychology. Therefore it’s unexplainable. Thomas Hardy’s stories were set in England (West country), where folk traditions and superstitions survived longer than in other areas, because the development of railways and industry came late to Hardy’s home village.
Thomas Hardy’s story is an oral story. ‘William, as you may know, was a curious, silent man. ‘ This suggests that Hartley was the narrator and is talking to another person. L. P Hartley’s story is told through the thoughts and feelings of the night watchman. The difference these narrative structures have on the reader is Night Fears is more psychological then The Superstitious Man’s story, because of the time difference and the new interest in the working of the mind. Both stories deal with aspects of the unknown.
I shall be looking at the ingredients of each story to see how far they conform to the reader’s expectations of a `horror` story, and which of the stories is the more effective. The Superstitious Man’s story is about the mysterious death of William Privett. William is seen in his house going outside, but he’s in bed all the time. William is seen at Church Porch, but not really there. He is seen at the spring while dead in a meadow two miles away, and a moth flew out of his mouth. Night Fears is about a night watchman who is very tired and starts imagining things. He speaks to a man who seems real to him.
The Stranger makes the night watchman even more depressed, and the NW ends up committing suicide. The stranger then walks away. What we expect to find in a `horror` story is the supernatural, strange characters, tension, the unknown, a dark setting, deaths, inconclusive endings and a chilling atmosphere. In the Thomas Hardy story he describes William Privett as a ghostly sort of character. William was a forgetful man. He was not a man given to much speaking. William was a curious, silent man; ‘ you could feel him when he came near you; and if he was in the house.
William and his wife do not get on very because he likes to keep himself to himself, and he’s very silent. People feel uncomfortable when he’s around. In Night Fears L. P Hartley describes the Night watchman as a very tired man who hates his job. He is always thinking about things and he tries to think about the good things in his life. His thoughts are so strong that he can almost touch, smell, see, hear and taste them. For example, ‘His thoughts were few but pleasant to dwell on, and in the solitude they had the intensity of sensations.
‘ William has a wife and children who don’t hardly get to see him because of his job. The Stranger is described as a rude and cold character because he was warming his back at the fire, instead of his hands, while ignoring the Night watchman’s call. So if fire symbolises warmth and light, then sitting with his back to the fire could suggest a dark and cold character, which is unhuman. The Stranger is a silent man, who doesn’t make much noise because the Night watchman doesn’t hear him coming, he just appears, which is strange, unknown and sort of ghostly.
‘Yes’, the Stranger replied, ‘but it will be colder before morning’. This is seen as threatening and means that the Night watchman might be dead before morning. The Stranger knows because he might be a ghost or a phsycic. The second suggested meaning is the weather, it might actually be colder before morning. The Stranger seems to know more than the Night watchman’s job then he does. This is because the stranger might be a supernatural person. The Stranger is an odd and supernatural character, because at the end he walked away, leaving dark, irregular footprints.
He never returned. The Stranger seems to be a figment of risks to the Night watchman’s imagination until the end. For example the Stranger always made the Night watchman feel even worse about himself, by saying that nobody cared about him much, especially when he noticed that there wasn’t any coke left out for him. Also the Stranger mentioned that the Night watchman’s family wasn’t going to get far in life with the wages his job paid. Also the Stranger depressed the Night watchman even more by saying that he will never get to see his children, ‘they’ll grow up without knowing you!
Up when their papa’s in bed and in bed when he’s up! ‘ The Stranger said. Supernatural events in the Superstitious Man’s story are; William going outside the only door in the house to smoke his pipe, while apparently being asleep in his bed all the time. William was seen going in to the Church at Church Porch on Midsummer’s Eve. But the next day hi wife discovered that William had been at home all night. William was working with his friend in the meadow, and was resting, and fell asleep. He died while sleeping. Then a white moth flew out of his mouth.
At the same time William was seen down at Longpuddle Spring, a good two miles away from the meadow where his body was. In Night Fears the supernatural events are; the Stranger just appearing out of nowhere. The Stranger seeming to know more about the Night watchman himself. Also the Stranger just walking away leaving dark, irregular footprint. Both stories conform my expectations of a ‘horror’ story, because they both contain the unexplainable. Both of the titles to the stories tell us that they are both going to be about the unknown. The word ‘superstitious’ is a strange word, so I know the story is going to be strange and unexplainable.
The word ‘night’ is a dark and scary word, because I immediately know it’s going to be set at night. Things always seem more scary at night because you can’t see as clearly. In the Superstitious Man’s story, the phrase ‘William as you may know, was a curious, silent man, tells us that it’s an oral story. So does ‘William not being a man given to much speaking’, and ‘ he was a forgetful man’. The phrase ‘you could feel him when he came near you; and if he was in the house or anywhere behind you, without you seeing him’. This describes William as a ghostly person and one you wouldn’t like to be near.
One can tell the story is going to be a ‘horror’ story in the opening paragraph because Thomas Hardy writes, ‘there seems to be something clammy in the air’. This tells me that it might have been misty at the time, or there being a spirit around. Night Fears is an old-fashioned story because L. P. Hartley is using old-fashioned words like, ‘the coke-brazier’ and ‘sensitive’. In the opening paragraph L. P. Hartley creates atmosphere by mentioning that it was a dark and cold night and the Night watchman wasn’t as elegant as the coke-brazier’s warmth.
One can tell it was dark and cold night because of the coke-brazier’s warmth for the Night watchman, and since he first took on the job, the light from the coke-brazier emphasized the darkness. Both these stories create a chilling atmosphere, as I would expect. They are both equally effective. It is common to find one or more victims in a horror supernatural story. William’s death is sudden and unexplainable because it seems that he died in two different places. The Night watchman’s death was different; he committed suicide because of the stranger playing with his mind.
This death is unexplainable. The more effective is William’s death because it is unexplainable and he died in superstitious circumstances. I found the Night watchman’s death more disturbing because he got made even more depressed by the stranger, and ended up committing suicide. We expect to find inconclusive endings in these kinds of stories because if there was not it would be a good detective story instead. In the Superstitious Man’s story, yes, because William died so suddenly and nobody can explain.
In Night Fears, yes these was an inconclusive ending because we don’t know exactly what the stranger was, and he just disappeared at the end and never returned. I think the ending of Thomas Hardy’s story was more effective because the whole story was easier to follow, and I think it is because William is more of a quiet and mysterious character. Conclusion Night Fears is the more effective ‘horror’ story, because it is at night, and it is cold, which makes it scary, and adding the mysterious and strange characters as well. Jonathan Avis – Form 10X3.