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Explore the method which writers use to create suspense and tension in 19th century stories. Stories have always been an influential and captivating way for authors to successfully put across a view or opinion regarding an issue or for the reader to gain a better recognition of another culture, country or way of life.
In the 19th century when people rarely travelled afar and knew little about anywhere beyond their surroundings, stories were a crucial and effective way for the reader to gain an insight into, for instance, another country like what can be depicted in ‘Desiree’s Baby. ‘ For this reason, it is essential for a writer to create tension and suspense within the novel to grasp and keep the reader’s full attention for them to feel as if they are involved in the tale. The three predominant ways in which to achieve this are to include a suitable setting, characters and use of language.
I believe that all three of the given stories demonstrate this; The ‘Red Room’ shows a young man who is absolutely certain that ghosts do not exist and sets out to prove his belief, ‘Desiree’s Baby’ draws the reader into an entrancing story of how a young mother’s life is mutilated by her pernicious husband, and ‘The Necklace’ tells the exceptional tale of a remarkably narcissistic middle-class woman who is not contempt with the life she has, and ends up immoderately worse off.
The characters in the story I will be studying first are those in ‘The Necklace’. Madame Loisel’s character is shown to be exceedingly materialistic and selfish, all throughout the story. ‘She was unhappy all the time, for she felt she was intended for a life of refinement and luxury’ Within the story, there are clues that the Loisels are a middle-class couple and live an average life, however this quote proves Madame Loisel’s selfish attitude by showing that she has not considered that she has a good husband, life and home and that she always wants more.
It was spiteful to say that she was always unhappy, as she had her own servant and a nice home to live in, but she would not appreciate all the things she had, that many lower-class people did not and did not realise until it was too late. Already given a view of Madame Loisel a rather conceited woman the story then continues to make her character seem furthermore demanding and careless of any other characters’ feelings. Madame Loisel was an extremely ungrateful woman, who strongly relied on her husband to provide her with all the things she wanted.
‘She thought for a few moments, working out her sums but also wondering how much she could decently ask … who was careful with his money. ‘ Through the text, her husband says that she already has many dresses, but because of her selfish nature, she insists on purchasing, with her husband’s money, a new dress for the occasion. Loisel was intending to spend the money he had saved up on a trip with his friends, however Madame Loisel expected him to give her the money he had saved, because she wanted a new dress that she would wear few times.
Loisel has a personality that is surprisingly contrasted that of his wife’s, which becomes even more evident as the story unfolds. Loisel is a cheerful character who thinks positively. ‘Ah stew, there’s nothing I like better than a nice stew! ‘ Even though the couple were not the richest of people, and they ate stew almost every night, Loisel managed to stay happy and pretend that their dinner was not becoming tiresome after having it so often. Loisel’s character is an extraordinary one, as he keeps the readers engaged into the story, wondering as to whether his kindly temperament will turnaround as the tale progresses.
In The Necklace, Loisel’s character is portrayed to be caring and he always puts his wife’s needs before his own. ‘Loisel had eighteen thousand francs which his father had left him. He would have to borrow the rest. ‘ Loisel had had to spend the eighteen thousand francs and borrow money to try and buy another necklace for his wife’s friend. It was Madame Loisel who got herself into the situation where she had to replace the lost item, however he stayed calm and willingly used all of his savings and a loan to help out his wife even thought he knew he would most likely never be able to repay it.
This adds to the tension of the story by leaving the reader guessing if Madame Loisel’s friend will notice the replaced necklace as if she did, the borrowed money would have been a waste of time. The story of the Red Room has a more eerie or slightly alarming quality to it and the characters are to some extent similar to their surroundings. The narrator in The Red Room believes that ghosts are not real, as he has never seen one. ‘Eight and twenty… and never a ghost I have seen as yet. ‘
The narrator seems to be quite sure that he will return from the room having seen nothing and therefore proving his point that the Red Room is not haunted, however he does not appear to consider that he is only twenty eight years old and just because he has seen no ghosts yet, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. From this piece of text, the reader is wondering whether he will actually see a ghost in the room, which is effectively adding suspense to the story. The narrator thinks that the ‘old custodians’ are set in their old beliefs and thinks that they believe in ghosts because they are from a different age.