I have studied three different nineteenth century short stories. These are ‘The Signalman’, ‘The Red Room’ and ‘The Stolen Bacillus’. Both ‘The Red Room’ and ‘The Stolen Bacillus’ were written by H. G. Wells and ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens. All three of these stories are very detailed and traditional with their long and complicated words. The best aspect of these short stories was their genre which, was a mystery and I find that mysterious stories always make me want to read on because I want to know what’s going to happen. Short stories are effective because they get straight to the point and are quick to read.
Out of these stories, I found that they all have a similar plot in the way that they all have a sense of danger or warnings in them. For example, in ‘The Red Room’ the old people try to warn off this man from entering the red room because it’s supposed to have some sort of fear in it. Then, in ‘The Signalman’ a signalman keeps seeing a spectre before something terrible happens and so the spectre he sees is trying to warn the Signalman that something’s going to happen and as we find out, this spectre is trying to warn him of his own fatal death. Signalman killed this morning, Sir… ” In ‘The Stolen Bacillus’, the Anarchist wants to create havoc and danger by trying to spread a fatal disease called Asiastic Cholera around the world. “… the little tube that contained such vast possibilities of destruction gripped in his hand. ”
The atmosphere in these short stories are very similar in their own way, by the fact that they are gloomy and they have a sense of danger in them. ‘The Red Room’ is very scary and eerie. It makes the reader feel uneasy. “Long, draughty subterranean passage was chilly and dusty. It gives an uneasy, mysterious presence and the story seems to get scarier as it progresses. “The echoes rang up and down the spiral staircase… ” The red room is also separate from all the other rooms around the castle and this adds to isolation. In ‘The Signalman’ it has the same sort of gloominess and terror around it. “Barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air… ” There is tension between the characters as they start to bond and they are wary of each other. “I was doubtful,” he returned, “whether I had seen you before. ” This shows us that the Signalman is very cautious and afraid of his visitor.
He thinks he has seen the visitor before somewhere. The atmosphere around the characters is cold and muggy and wet. “Earthy, deadly small; and so much cold wind rushed through it. ” “… clammy stone, that become oozier and wetter as I went down… ” ‘The Stolen Bacillus’ is a bit different to the other two in the way that it is set more in the future and the atmosphere is quite calm at first, but it gradually builds up to where the Anarchist has stolen the cholera and the Bacteriologist is chasing after him hoping that he won’t do anything drastic with the cholera. His mood was a singular mixture of fear and exultation. ” The description of the characters in these short stories is very detailed and traditional. They have quite a few long, complicated words in which I didn’t understand and had to look up in the dictionary. In ‘The Red Room’, the characters at the beginning are very weird and frightening. They all have a particular focus point like the old woman staring into the fire. They have no eye contact between them and they act really strangely.
The man who goes in the room later on is the only young person there and he acts a bit macho and is determined that there is no ghost in the red room. “I can assure you”, said I “that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me. ” All of the characters seem to repeat phrases quite a few times and this can also add tension between them. “It is your own choosing… ” “I said-it’s your own choosing. ” To describe the characters well, the writer focuses on unusual characteristics, like the eyes of the woman or the man with the withered arm.
The description of these characters is enough for us to be able to imagine them. When a new man comes into the room, the writer describes him like this. “He supported himself by a single crutch, his eyes were covered by a shade, and his lower lip, half averted, hung pale and pink from his decaying yellow teeth. ” As you can see, it is not a lot, but it is enough for a short story. In ‘The Signalman’, again they are very similar. The Signalman is wary of his visitor, he is a stranger to him and we know this by the way that the writer describes him. The visitor though is quite different.
He is a cheery man and he is very thoughtful. “I had proved the man to be intelligent, vigilant, painstaking, and exact. ” This story differs from ‘The Red Room’ by the way that they have lots if eye contact between them. This still creates tension, but in a different sort of way. Even though the story is similar to ‘The Red Room’, ‘The Signalman’ is much calmer and sadder. There is quite a bit of description from the visitor about the Signalman, “His post was in as solitary and dismal place as ever I saw,” and “… dark sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows… ”
This description tells us that the Signalman is quite a lonely and depressed man, but is well educated and trying to educate himself. We know this because the visitor tells us what he sees throughout the story and he sees sums written on the walls of the tunnel. The visitor is very talkative, inquisitive and good at listening. He cares for the Signalman. “… With a flashing self-reproachful fear that fatal mischief had come of my leaving the man there… ” The Signalman is very good and careful about his job as one of the train drivers had said when he was talking to the visitor after the Signalman’s death.
In ‘The Stolen Bacillus’, there is not as many complicated words as the other two, but there is still quite a bit of description of the Anarchist. “The pale-faced man peered down the microscope. ” In this story, there are quite a few different words that describe the same sort of thing, like “devastate”, “destruction”, and “fear”. All these show the Anarchist’s way of thinking and his pleasure of this sort of thing. He likes to see people suffer and cause chaos.
There is also more description of what the Anarchist looks like. The lank black hair and deep grey eyes, the haggard expression and nervous manner… ” This description of the Anarchist is similar to the one in ‘The Red Room’ where H. G. Wells has described a new person that comes into the room. It describes all the features of his face really well, as he has done so for the Anarchist. Also in ‘The Stolen Bacillus’, the dutiful wife Minnie is described in a bit of a sexist way by the fact that she runs after her husband with his hat, coat and shoes. This is very typical, as wives are always running around after their husbands.
This story is well written with still lots of good description. The language in these short stories is very complex and can be hard to understand. I found this was the case especially in ‘The Signalman’ since the first time I read it, I had taken in absolutely nothing about the story, I was completely confused, but after another few times of reading it, I understood it much better. ‘The Red Room’ and ‘The Stolen Bacillus’ I found were much easier to understand, but they still had a few words like “askance” or “penumbra” which I had to look up.
In ‘The Red Room’, there was a lot of repetition in the character’s dialogue and quite a few spooky sayings. “This night of all nights? ” There is also quite a lot of traditional and old English language used. “Tangible” or “custodians”. This quote is repeated quite often “It’s your own choosing,” said the man with the withered arm. H. G. Wells uses a few metaphors “My candle was a little tongue of light” and quite a number of similes “It was like a ragged stormcloud sweeping out the starts. ” The vocabulary is varied and interesting and the structure is to the point.
In ‘The Signalman’, there is a lot more descriptive and complicated writing and again a lot of repetition spoken. “Halloh! Below there! ” It is written in the past tense and it is a first person narrative. There are quite a few ghostly words, “Spectre” and “Haunting”. The conversation at first between the characters is very formal but it gradually develops into much more detailed dialogue. Again, there are a lot of complex words and this story is very traditional or the typical nineteenth century language. ‘The Stolen Bacillus’ still has a lot of repetition like the other two stories. … and death-mysterious, untraceable, death, death swift and terrible, death full of pain and indignity. ”
This quote is one, which makes the reader feel very uneasy about all this death business, and tells us a lot about the Anarchist’s way of thinking. The language in this story is much easier to understand with hardly any complicated words. It was still very descriptive and had a nice, comical twist at the end of it, which was quite different to the other two as they both ended with either someone dying or someone getting injured. H. G. Wells has contrasted his two stories really well but they do still have similar bonds between them which makes H. G. Wells stories are easy to point out and he is original in his own significant way. All three of these stories are effective because they get straight to the point, there isn’t too much character description, the atmosphere can be very tense but it can also be clam at the same time, the language has been chosen very carefully, there aren’t too many characters, the stories are generally easier to get in to. This is what makes short stories so effective!