In my opinion, it is possible for a novel to deliver a serious message and offer entertainment for the reader. In order to demonstrate this, I am using Stone Cold by Robert Swindells and The Black Veil by Charles Dickens. Set in the cold hard streets of London, Stone Cold is a definite warning for those planning to run away from home in the near future. Not only is it a rough, painful life full of poverty, but there’s also an insane killer on the loose. When Link’s newly found friend, Ginger, mysteriously goes missing one day, Link begins to get worried. ‘All the time I was looking for him, and he didn’t show.
‘ – Link While Link is looking for his friend, he finds something sinister about the man living at Nine Mornington Place, because he was the last person to see Ginger. But as Link closes in, so does danger. With the mysterious ‘Shelter’ on his tail, Link will be lucky if he gets away alive. But he does get away, with a little help from Gail, who is really a reporter in disguise. Shelter is taken away, leaving Link worse off than before, with no friends and no hope of a life. One evening, a young doctor is sat in front of a warm fire, simply waiting for patient.
His first patient enters, dressed in black with her face covered with a black veil. While speaking is peculiar riddles, she tries to explain her situation to the doctor. ‘… How can I hope that others will believe what seems incredible even to myself? ‘ – The lady Eventually, she gives him the address, and tells him to come at a certain time the following morning. He arrives, but only to discover that the ‘patient’ that the lady was talking about is her dead son. He has turned to crimes to get things that his mother could not provide for him, and has been hanged as a result.
The lady realises that the doctor cannot help her son, and blames herself for his death. The doctor feels sorry for her, and helps her in any way he can for as long as she lives. He is paid back in full, because he is never short of patients or money again. Mood In both stories, a mood of mystery is created, although there is more in The Black Veil than there is in Stone Cold. Stone Cold takes place during winter, and ends the following winter. This is a particularly hard time for people on the street. ‘And don’t forget the cold.
If you’ve ever tried dropping off to sleep with cold feet, even in bed, you’ll know it’s impossible. ‘- Link. The writer also includes a mystery person, ‘Gail’. She appears out of nowhere when Link is at his lowest, and is desperate to be with him. ‘Don’t go. ‘ – Gail Link assumes that Ginger has moved on and left him, and vows that he will never get that dependant on anybody, or trust anyone again. A little later, Link thinks that he is in love with this mysterious ‘Gail’ character. The reader wants to believe him as well, because they think he deserves some happiness after the miserable life he has had up until now.
All along, the reader is hoping that things will work out for Link, and he will maybe get a job, get married to Gail, have children, and lead a normal life; but they don’t. ‘Gail’ turns out to be a newspaper reporter called Louise, who is just out for a good story on homelessness. Both the reader and Link are shocked at this news, even though there have been clues earlier on in the story that Gail might not be what she seems. The reader hopes that Gail will make a difference to Link’s lonely life. A mood of horror and fear is also created. The writer of Stone Cold includes a surprise person, Shelter.
This character tells the reader that he used to be in the army, and the reader assumes that he has ‘retired’. ‘And that was my mission in life – to turn dirty, scruffy, pimply youths into soldiers. And I did it, too. Year after year. Yes, and what thanks do I get? I’ll tell you… ‘ – Shelter. Near the beginning of the novel, he talks about his ‘mission to clean up the streets of London’. His ‘mission’, as the reader finds out a little later on in the novel, is actually to go around the city murdering all the homeless people he thinks deserve to die.
The reader finds this out fairly so, but the other narrator, Link, doesn’t know much about Shelter. Not only does Shelter murder these poor, unsuspecting people in cold blood, but he also keeps their bodies under the floorboards in his house. He gives these corpses names, cuts their hair, and buys them new clothes and boots. He keeps telling the reader how smart they look, and takes looks at them constantly for pleasure. ‘They look quite smart’, ‘his mother would have been proud’. Link suspects that there is something not quite normal about him, but he can’t be sure. ‘We could be talking murder here.
Double murder, but it’s all supposition, my old mate. ‘ – Nick, another homeless person. Even near the very end of the novel, the reader knows that Link can’t be that sure about Shelter, otherwise he would never have stepped into his house. Like Stone Cold, a mood of mystery is created in The Black Veil. Firstly, the writer chooses to set the story on a dark, stormy night, where one of the main characters, the doctor, is sat in front of a warm fire, simply waiting for a patient. A patient arrives soon after, who is so mysterious that neither the reader nor the doctor knows anything about her.
All that is known is that the lady knows someone who is in need of the doctor’s help, but the help that is required is not the usual kind that you ask doctors for. ‘”Then you could not help him? ” (Doctor) “I could not”(lady). ‘ The rest is kept in the dark, until the very end of the story. The reader knows that the doctor does not have any more knowledge than the reader, because he wonders about the problem as he is travelling to the lady’s house in the morning.
‘It could not be that the man was to be murdered in the morning…’, ‘bound to secrecy by oath, had relented, and though unable to prevent the commission of outrage… ‘ – the doctor. He clearly has no idea. The writer keeps hinting at the full story, but only reveals it all at the very end, when both the reader and the doctor find out that the ‘man’ that the lady keeps talking about is her only so. He has turned to crime because he wanted things that his other could not give him, and has been hanged as a result. Setting Both of these stories are set in London, more than a century apart from each other. The Black Veil, sent on a dark stormy night, is set well away from a civilised society.
‘… Make her appearance form the door of a dirty house to empty the contents of some cooking utensil into the gutter in front, or to scream after some slipshod girl who had contrived to stagger a few yards from the door under the weight of a sallow infant almost as big as herself. ‘ – the doctor. Harsh, poverty-stricken people inhabit the place, and all the buildings surrounding are all shabby and run-down. All this description adds to the fact that this is a place where criminals were thought to live. In Link’s point of view, London has not changed much since the 1800’s.
He is isolated form the rest of society, and ordinary people don’t care much about homeless people. He is invisible to everybody else, he has no place in society, nobody knows him, and he owns nothing. Because he has ‘made himself homeless’ in the middle of winter only makes it worse for him. He only has the street to sleep on, or if he’s got a little bit of money, he can stay in the ‘slave ship’. ‘Have you ever seen that famous diagram of a slave ship – slaves crammed like sardines into every square centimetre of space? Well, that’s what it was like of the boat me and Ginger ended up on.