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In this essay I will compare the two stories The Whole Town’s Sleeping by Ray Bradbury and A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins to see how they create a sense of fear and suspense. I will talk about how the following factors contribute to a sense of fear and suspense. The main characters, their behaviour, if they were to blame, setting, language, plot and the ending. I will also be talking about which story is more effective and why.
First I will talk about the two main characters.
The two main characters are called Lavinia Nebbs (in the Whole Town’s Sleeping) and Monsieur Faulkner (in a Terribly Strange Bed). To add to the sense of fear and suspense, both Monsieur Faulkner and Lavinia Nebbs go out looking for excitement. They look for excitement by
the back streets which we know is a big risk for him as we learn in the beginning,
“Shortly after my education at college was finished” he is a well educated well off man.
Lavinia Nebbs still goes out despite advise given to her by her friends and the fact that there is a mystery murderer on the loose “won’t catch me out on no night like this, not with the lonely one strangling women lock myself in with my gun” said Grandma Hanlon.
As well as taking risks both Monsieur Faulkner and Lavinia Nebbs are very stubborn, Monsieur Faulkner would not go with his friend
“For heaven’s sake” I said to my friend “Let us go somewhere where we can see little genuine blackguard, poverty-stricken gaming”.
Lavinia Nebbs tries to prove her point even after they find Eliza Ramsell’s dead body. “It’s only eight thirty; we’ll pick up Helen and get on to the show”.
Both Lavinia Nebbs and Monsieur Faulkner are bored and single which in my opinion spurs them into looking for excitement. Looking for excitement by taking risks creates tension, which in turn helps to create a sense of fear and suspense because tension keeps us waiting for what is coming next.
Lavinia Nebbs and Monsieur Faulkner are both partly to blame for their
attacks. In Lavinia Nebbs’ case, if she had gone home straight after they found Eliza Ramsell’s body she probably still would have been killed but there were many times she was given the option by her friends not to go home and to stay at their houses but she refused. In Monsieur Faulkner’s case his friend insisted that they don’t go to the rough gambling house but Monsieur Faulkner refused and carried on without him and also he was drinking.
In my opinion, Lavinia Nebbs was more to blame than Monsieur Faulkner for her attack, as she was given more escape routes but she didn’t take any of them.
The sentence and paragraph length plays an important part in creating a sense of fear and suspense in both stories. In The Whole Town Sleeping, the sentences and paragraphs are all very short all the way through which helps create tension with the slight pause created by the full stop which in turn creates a sense of fear and suspense. At the very end when she gets home and we think she is safe, the sentences and paragraphs become much longer as there is little fear. In A Terribly Strange Bed the sentence and paragraph length varies all the way through. The sentences and paragraphs get shorter at times of fear and excitement.
In A Terribly Strange Bed the author, Wilkie Collins uses old, quite complex language as this is a nineteenth century short story so the language is different to the language we use today.
In the Whole Town’s Sleeping the author Ray Bradbury uses reasonably modern language with short, frequently used words. This makes the story easier to understand and follow.
Both A Terribly Strange Bed and The Whole Town’s Sleeping are crime stories but the Whole Town’s Sleeping is also a mystery as we never find out who the ‘Lonely One’ is or when he is next going to strike.
The settings for both stories are dark dismal places. In a Terribly Strange Bed the setting is a back street gambling house in an unknown city. In The Whole Town’s sleeping the setting is her hometown and a ravine. The difference between the two settings is the place is known to the victim in The Whole Town’s Sleeping which adds more fear and
Suspense to the story because it is her home and she should feel safe.
In my opinion The Whole Town’s Sleeping is more successful in creating a sense of fear and suspense because it releases the tension gradually which is more realistic. The reader thinks Lavinia Nebbs is home and safe but it is quite the opposite. The Whole Town’s Sleeping also has a very effective ending because we still do not know what has happened to Lavinia Nebbs – it is left to the imagination, which always assumes the worst. Both stories keep us guessing when we think they are in the clear something else happens to them.
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