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The Superstitious Man’s Story

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The two short stories I have compared are The Superstitious Man’s Story, written in the 19th century by Thomas Hardy and Uneasy Homecoming, a more modern story, written in the 20th century by Will F. Jenkins. Both stories are horror stories, and I have tried to decide how each story, in my view builds up fear and tension. Both stories are in the third person narrative, in other words the writer is not telling the story as if it was himself. It is almost as if the story is being told to us, and not written down.

In Uneasy Homecoming, Will F. Jenkins is a fly on the wall, and he can see all of the things that are happening at the precise time that they are happening. In The Superstitious Man’s Story, however it is almost as if the writer is reporting back on the events that have taken place and telling us, the readers about them. The general structure of The Superstitious Man’s story is episodical, and is split up into stages, almost like poems are split up into verses or stanzas. Each episode takes place at a different time and each one begrudges a totally different storyline than the next.

The point of writing the story in episodes is to hold back on certain information and, in turn increase in tension and drama and keep us wondering what is going to happen next. On the other hand, Uneasy Homecoming offers a much more definite overview of events, and this is created by all of the events occurring over a short span of time. Where as The Superstitious Man’s story is economical on words, Uneasy Homecoming is much more descriptive and I felt like I knew everything that was going on and felt more ‘a part of the action’.

I could incorporate Connie’s feelings and could understand much more clearly what she was going through. In their own ways, both stories create a feeling of suspense and tension in you just by the way that they are written. The Superstitious Man’s Story because we feel as though we are missing out on a key part of information and, in turn Uneasy Homecoming because we feel disillusioned and ‘on edge’ about what is going to happen next. In both stories, the writer puts ‘little hints’ forward to make us wary of what is going to happen next and try and make us understand the true horror of the story.

He uses them to suggest that something, rather conspicuous is going to happen. Such hints as ‘William was in good health, to all appearance’. The writer could have just said William was in good health but by adding to all appearance it makes us think more of what is going to happen to him. On the other hand, in Uneasy Homecoming the writer emphasises on the word uneasy and uses it many times in the opening parts of the story to make you wonder why Connie is feeling so uneasy with herself.

It is obvious from the text that Connie is feeling strange about going back to an empty house, and the writer informs us of this but does not make it too obvious that something is going to happen. The Superstitious Man’s Story, like many other short horror stories written in and around the 19th century is written in a colloquial style. This adds to the effect that the story is being told as a 3rd person narrative. I cannot relate to some of the language in The Superstitious Man’s Story, as some of the language is dialect and many of the words are archaic.

Such words as ‘near ‘ee’ and ‘told me o’t’ illustrate this point. Although the words may be old fashioned and strange to us, this was how people used to talk and we can, in some ways relate to this. With superstition as the main theme, the characters in it are superstitious and believed in the irrational explanations that superstition had to offer. I felt that the story was about traditional, rural folk who don’t have much knowledge of the outside world. Uneasy Homecoming, on the contrary is a much more modern story, with references to garages and motorbikes.

There are no irrational explanations to the occurrences that take place. The writer builds up suspense and tension in another way than that of superstition, because the main character, Connie is vulnerable, her fears are passed on to you and you feel worried and concerned about what is going to happen to her next. The ending of The Superstitious Man’s Story is predictable as you instantly expect that when William Privett goes into the church on Midsummer’s Eve and doesn’t come out again, he is going to die.

According to superstition anyone who goes into the church on Midsummer’s Eve and does not come out again is alleged to die in the future. However, what is not so predictable is the anti climax that the writer adds on to the story for effect. He states that William Privett is seen again, after he is dead at the spring where his son died. This was rather strange in the context of the story because I did not know anything about his son dying and also did not expect William Privett to be seen back alive again after he had died.

On the other hand, the ending of Uneasy Homecoming is dramatic, if not predictable in the circumstances. Connie is being bombarded and trapped in her own home by a thief who is taking all of her possessions. Connie is worried and believes that she is at risk if she cannot escape fast. The actions she takes are a spur of the moment, and without thinking she sets the house, that she once loved alight with the thief inside. I didn’t feel that the ending was as enticing in Uneasy Homecoming, I say this because it was hinted throughout the story that something drastic was going to happen to Connie.

Every little thing or movement is carefully chosen to add impact on the overall feeling I got when reading the story. Even little sounds like a bat flying overhead and the refrigerator turning on are described to create an extra feeling of uneasiness and dread towards Connie’s wellbeing. The settings of both stories are totally different; but in their own ways are not dissimilar. The Superstitious Man’s Story is set in a rural, secluded village, and there is not much happening there. On the other hand, Uneasy Homecoming is set in a busy sort of place, and there are references to many houses across the bay.

Connie, however does not live in one of these houses, and is the only person that lives on the other side of the bay. You could argue that she as well is secluded and lives in a lonely place. This is a typical occurrence in horror stories, whereby the characters are all on their own where anything could happen that nobody would notice. The time is also relevant to the overall feel to both stories. They are both set at night and in Uneasy Homecoming the writer describes in great detail how the sun is going down just as Connie is returning home. He says ‘The red dying sun cast long shadows across the road’.

He uses the word red because red is associated with blood and from this moment on, I could sense that something terrible was going to happen. The writer also emphasise that Connie is going back to a dark house and points out that she feels that there is something is not right as she is going back to her house. On the other hand, in The Superstitious Man’s Story it is much more difficult to negotiate what is going to happen from the beginning of the story. At the beginning the setting is a normal family one, with Betty Privett doing the ironing and William Privett upstairs in bed.

Although it is still set at night, I found it much more difficult than in Uneasy Homecoming to negotiate what was going to happen next. I had no inkling that William was going to die because the writer, on purpose does not suggest at any point that he is going to die. Although the time of the scene is at nightime, I did not imagine that what ended up happening would happen and it came as a complete shock to me. In The Superstitious Man’s Story, the main character, William Privett is very quiet. He had a typical 19th century relationship with his wife, whereby she did things for him and, at times went out of her way to get things done.

He was obviously grieving about his son’s death, however we do not know that his son has died until the end. Everyone in the village that the Privett’s live in have superstitious beliefs, we realise this when Nancy sees William go into the church and does not see him come out again. As superstition goes, those people who enter the church on Midsummer’s Eve and don’t come out again are going to die sometime in the future. I found that if you were reading this story, then you would have to know what the superstition means in order to have any effect on the bearing of the story.

The storyteller, Thomas Hardy is also aware of these superstitious beliefs and he obviously has a good understanding on everything surrounding superstition and he puts this into good knowledge when he is writing the story. He tries to keep us interested by drawing us into the action. ‘As you may know Sir’ is directed at us and we feel as though that we are involved in the story. His way of unfolding the story is for interest in the reader and to me, it was to make me understand more clearly the concepts of the story.

The storyteller of Uneasy Homecoming, Will F. Jenkins uses distinct language in order to build up the tension and at the same time sheer excitement of what is going to happen next. He uses shortened sentences so I read more quickly and they also reflect the tension and excitement that he is trying to build up. He uses dramatic irony to describe where the thief is in the house in comparison to Connie and we almost want to rush in and save her. He uses repetition of the word uneasy and uses it several times in the opening few paragraphs. This is to elaborate on the circumstances ahead of Connie and also to maintain that she is feeling uneasy about going back to an empty home.

Overall, the main difference between the two short stories I have analysed is the time that they were written; The Superstitious Man’s Story written in 1891 and Uneasy Homecoming written in the 20th century. Both of them, however, have some key factors that most horror stories have; they are both set at night and both describe things with great detail to build up the fear and tension inside us. Differences apart, I felt that they were both true horror stories and with language, character, setting, structure and atmosphere, I felt that both writers perfected building up fear and tension inside of us.

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