This sample paper on Short Suspense Stories offers a framework of relevant facts based on the recent research in the field. Read the introductory part, body and conclusion of the paper below.
Both of these stories have different settings. In the Landlady, the setting was Bath, England. In A terribly strange bed, the setting is Paris, France. Both of these factors cause problems when comparing the two stories. This is because the stories were written at two different times and the culture is very different in both of these countries.
The currency is also different, and the language seems to be more complex, again due to the dates that these stories were written in. The Landlady was written in 1960 by Roald Dahl, and ‘A terribly strange bed’ was written in 1856 by Wilkie Collins.
Both of these stories deal with fear and suspense by using various techniques to keep the reader in suspense. I will try to compare and contrast the different methods used by both authors within the next few paragraphs.
When the first paragraph of The Landlady begins, the ‘audience’ is made aware of the surroundings. Roald Dahl starts to create fright/anticipation by providing an in depth account into the background of the story. The account set, describes to the audience the atmosphere and gives us an insight into the kind of weather conditions within the scene.
The audience is told “the air is deadly cold, and the wind as flat as a blade of ice cutting against his cheek”.
This descriptive opening to the story suggests that Billy is in a hostile environment. By doing this the author is generating apprehension and expectancy. In ‘A terribly strange bed’ we are first told of the date then the setting. The date was 1856 and the setting was France. This in itself is a major difference to The Landlady, because the setting is a different country and the date nearly 100 years earlier.
We as an audience are told that the main character ‘Monsieur Faulkner’ wants to go to a gambling house. The type of atmosphere in this gambling house creates suspense for the character. We are told that in this gambling residence there was a mute silence, and that no-body spoke. “The quiet in the room was horrible”, “The dirty wrinkled old man, with the vulture eyes and the darned greatcoat, who had just lost his last ‘sou’ (Small coin of low value), still looked on desperately after he could play no longer, never spoke”.
This quote has created apprehension by giving the audience pictographic images in their minds of the setting and the type of people found there, and by suggesting that Monsieur Faulkner is in a threatening atmosphere. Billy Weaver is seventeen-years-old. He was wearing a new navy-blue overcoat, a new brown trilby hat, and a new brown suit. He walks briskly, as he has decided that “‘Briskness’ was the one common characteristic of all successful businessmen”. Billy is trying hard to become a businessman, because he knows that businessmen are successful.
We also learn that he is gullible, weary, uncertain, and cautious and that he takes people at face value. We notice that Billy takes the landlady at face value when he says: “The old girl is slightly dotty, but at five and sixpence a night, who gives a damn about that? ” We notice during the story that the landlady is quite peculiar. From the first sentence we notice that something isn’t quite right with her. When she opens the door, it seems as if she is expecting Billy to arrive.
We know this through a number of different quotes: “But I’m always ready day and night in the house just on the off chance that an acceptable young gentleman will come along, and it is such a pleasure, my dear, such a very great pleasure when now and again I open the door and see someone standing there who is exactly right”, this is further enhanced by “I noticed that the bed covers were put back ready for someone to get into the bed”. These all suggest that the landlady is expecting Billy to arrive at the Bed and Breakfast.
These quotes also create anticipation because we wonder why she is so eager for him to stay? In contrast to the Landlady and Billy Weaver, Monsieur Faulkner is an upper class, middle aged man who is looking for some excitement and danger in his life. We know that he is upper class because of little clues in the dialogue, for example: “In short, I had hitherto frequented gaming-tables-just as I frequented ballrooms and opera houses- because they amused me, and because I had nothing better to do with my leisure hours”.
This suggests that he enjoys social events, and that he can afford to go to these types of leisure events. Another example of Monsieur Faulkner being upper class is that he says that he has been to every gaming table in Europe. This is another clue that suggests that he can afford to travel around Europe. We meet the old soldier as Monsieur Faulkner starts to win a substantial amount of money on the gambling table called ” Rouge et Noir”(Red and Black). The Old Soldier was described in detail; Monsieur Faulkner describes him as a suspicious specimen.
He then goes on to describe the soldiers appearance: “goggling-bloodshot eyes, mangy mustachios, and a broken nose. He had the dirtiest pair of hands I had every saw, even in France. ” The soldier seems to have a plan for Monsieur Faulkner as he involves himself in his winnings. There are a few similarities in throughout the two stories, one of these being the two different plots during the stories. In the Landlady the conspiracy was to lure Billy into the house and to poison him with a preserving chemical, as we believe that she wants to preserve his body when he has died.
In ‘A terribly strange bed’ the plot wasn’t developed until Monsieur Faulkner had won a substantial amount of money at the gambling table, but when this had happened the plan was to try and keep him at the gambling residence and to somehow steal his money, or nearer to the point murder him for his money. Another similarity during these two stories is that both characters are described to be in hostile environments. For Billy the hostile environment was a ‘Deadly cold’ small town called Bath in England, and for Monsieur Faulkner it was a gambling residence in Paris, France.
Both of the main protagonists are also lured to their fate by a surreal sense of security, with Billy it was that he was staying in a Bed and Breakfast with the landlady, and for Monsieur Faulkner it was a gambling residence that had many door locks and much residential security objects. Tension builds up in these stories when Billy finds out that there have only been two guests in past three years before him at this Bed and Breakfast. It is also built up when Billy seems to recognise both names in the guest-book “as if they had been famous for the same type of thing”, and when the landlady says “But my dear boy, he(Mr Mulholland)never left.
He’s still here. Mr Temple is also here. They’re on the third floor, both of them together. ” This quote also creates a type of anxiety among the readers, because questions would be travelling around the mind of a reader. The two main characters of the stories are trying to seek excitement and danger during these stories. Billy seeks the excitement; he does this by moving to a new town for a job promotion. We presume that this is Billy’s first trip away from his home in London so this would be exciting for him.
On contrast to this story, ‘A terribly strange bed’s main character Monsieur Faulkner seeks both excitement and danger. He does this by suggesting to his friend “let us go somewhere where we can see a little genuine, blackguardism, poverty-stricken gaming, with no false gingerbread glitter thrown over it all”. He seeks the excitement by going to a ‘underground’ gambling residence. He then seeks the danger by “winning prodigiously” and then socialising with the lower class and poverty-stricken players of the table. The authors brought fright into ‘The Landlady’ by leaving ‘us’ on a cliffhanger.
Roald Dahl does this as we find out that the tea Billy had been drinking was drugged, and when Billy asks the landlady a question “Has there been anyone here since Gregory Temple or Christopher Mulholland within the last two or three years? ” And she replies “no my dear, only you! “. This has created unease because there is an open ending to the story and we can presume that anything could’ve happened to Billy. In A terribly strange bed, the fear factor of the story is introduced when Monsieur Faulkner is staying overnight at the gambling residence, and he realises that the bed above him is descending upon him.
As the readers of the book, we fear for his life, whether he will live or die but fortunately he realises the bed is coming down upon him. Both of these parts create a sense of fear within the stories. In this essay I have identified the fear/suspense factors of both ‘The Landlady’ and ‘A terribly strange bed’ and described how the author has portrayed this in both stories. The stories both have a similar plot to them, both main characters were in hostile environments, they were both tricked into staying at a place where they didn’t want to, and two scrupulous people were after them to either ‘fleece’ them of their money or to murder them.
Both writers have portrayed the fear and suspense in their stories in a number of different ways. For example, in The Landlady apprehension was created by the use of ‘Italics’ this was to make certain words noticeable, and to make them stand out from the rest. The Italics also put an emphasis on the words used in the dialogue, which enhanced . In ‘A terribly strange bed’ the apprehension is created through the silence in the gambling residence. I have also identified the similarities between the stories and mentioned their significance to the stories.
There are two differences between the stories which I have become aware of. I have noticed that the audience is much more involved in The Landlady, and that we can guess what is going to happen next. However in A terribly strange bed, Monsieur Faulkner looks like he will be ‘done for’, but he escapes his death luckily. The audience is involved in the fright and anticipation at all times, this is directly linked with the way that he recounts this tale. We are told what happens to Monsieur Faulkner, but with the Landlady being an open-ended story we are left to guess what will happen to Billy, whether he will live or die.
I have also realised that there is a major difference between the two stories. When reading through the stories I realised that The Landlady concentrates on more on suspense rather than fear. This is because the author is writing a story, and suspense is the key factor in this story. A terribly strange bed concentrates on fear because this is being told from a persons point of view, and he is explaining his emotions in the story. This is how he is portraying his fear throughout the story. He is stating how frightened and afraid he was for his safety while he was at the gambling house.