The Whole Town’s Sleeping and A Terribly Strange Bed

Fear is when somebody feels insecure, or when he or she feels that something isn’t right or that something bad is going to happen to him or her. It is a state of mind that plays on your thoughts. People love to read fear and suspense stories as they like to feel the adrenaline rush of being frightened, lost in another world where nothings the same and they can feel scared just by reading a book. Changing the pace, tense or narrative of the story can also create fear as well as using suspense and climaxes. Suspense is a great way of creating fear in a reader.Ups downs, highs lows can make a story much more interesting and maximise the fear factor. This is done by gradually increasing the tension and maybe bringing it down to a normal level and lifting it back up again.

This is a great way to make the reader more interested in the story, and to make them really get a sense of fear from it. The two stories I will be analysing are from the book “Stories Then And Now”. It is a collection of short stories of different genres including ghost stories, murder mysteries and fear. The two stories I will be looking at are from the fear section.They are ‘The whole Town’s Sleeping’ by Ray Bradbury and ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ by Wilkie Collins. The titles of both stories are very important.

Even before the reader has started to read the story, it has left them wandering what the story could be about; thus making them want to read on to find out. ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ makes the reader have several thoughts: Why is the whole town sleeping? Are they all dead? What’s going to happen while the whole towns sleeping? ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ also puzzles the reader, making them have thoughts of what the story could be about.What’s so strange about this bed? And if it is strange, why is it so terrible? For most people a bed is a place of comfort, so a terribly strange bed will leave the impression that something bad will happen in this bed. ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ was written by Ray Bradbury and was published in 1950.

It is a story about 3 women who live in Illinois in America. Lavinia, Francine and Helen all find themselves feeling very worried as somebody called “The Lonely One” is murdering the local women. Fear and suspense are used very effectively in this story.Bradbury takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions as he shows us how the women feel a real sense of fear. With the sudden murders of the local women, they think that surely one of them must be next. The choice to call the villain “The Lonely One” is very significant as it gives the reader no idea or clue what the villain is like just the fact that he is lonely.

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This could mean that in order to cure his loneliness, he could kill again. In this story, Bradbury seems to deliberately play with the emotions of the reader by suddenly raising the tension then bringing it straight back down again.He does this on several occasions and this is probably because the more excited and scared the reader gets, the more they enjoy the story and want to read on more. There are many examples of this in this story. When the girls think that “The Lonely One” is following them, Bradbury seems to change the story very suddenly. It goes from the 3 ladies talking about their chances of safety and how there’s safety in numbers and the “Lonely One” wouldn’t attack 3 ladies, to the lines: ‘A shadow fell across their faces. A figure loomed.

As if someone had struck an organ a terrible blow, the three women shrieked.Got you! ” The man jumped from behind a tree. Rearing into the moonlight, he laughed. ‘ At this point the tension is at very high level. But, Bradbury brings the tension levels right down again saying that in fact, the person is their friend Tom Dillon and he was just playing a joke on them. But, we also see how much the current events have affected the ladies by the outrage they seem to direct towards Tom. Francine ends up in tears and Lavinia shouts at him and it quickly goes from a joke to the point of where Tom has realised that it wasn’t very funny at all.Another way that Bradbury creates a sense of fear in this story is the way that he makes Lavinia such a cool character who doesn’t seem bothered or scared at all by the murders or the fact that it could be her next.

She seems to be a confident lady that feels untouchable and this inevitably led to her downfall. She also seems excited by the murders and this is shown in the drug store. The man behind the counter at the drug store was serving the ladies when he mentions that a man was asking about Lavinia and foolishly he gave the man her address.

Again, the tension levels suddenly rise here.We feel a sense of fear for Lavinia and so do her friends. Francine, a very emotional person, again breaks down in tears. But, Lavinia doesn’t seem bothered that at a time like this, a strange man has asked for her address. In fact, Bradbury states that she feels excited at this prospect! The tension levels are always moving up and down in this story. This is a great way of scaring and keeping the reader interested and excited about the story. This is again shown after the ladies have realised that what could be the “Lonely One” has got Lavinia’s address, she still wants to go to the movie theatre.

In the theatre, Bradbury continues with his tactic of playing with the tension levels. The ladies realise that a man in a dark suit who had crossed the street when they entered the theatre, is now sitting in the row behind them. This is the point when high tension is felt through the reader. Helen then says that she is going to call the manager and she leaps up shouting ‘Stop the Film! Lights! ‘ But, Bradbury cleverly brings the tension levels right down again by moving on to a completely different scene where it is not clear what actually happened in the cinema.

It is only after reading on a few more lines that not only do we realise that all 3 of the ladies are safe, but that the man in the suit was actually the theatre manager’s brother! Bradbury goes straight back into creating fear again. On this occasion he give us the scene of the ladies walking home. He starts to build the tension up by making it that the ladies are the only people on the street at this time. His way of describing the scene is very effective as it gives us the impression that it is a scene where something bad is about to happen.He again shows us Lavinias over confident stupidity by refusing to stay at either of her friend’s houses and insisting on walking home on her own. It is almost as if she wants something bad to happen, as if she is bored with her life and in search of some excitement. Choosing to walk home on her own, the reader can see that something bad is about to happen to her. The ravine is a great choice of scenery from Bradbury as it gives the impression of loneliness and that if something was to happen to someone down there, nobody would hear a thing.

Bradbury lifts the tension up again by saying that as Lavinia is walking she can hear a man’s voice. Little sentences follow which are very effective in this sort of scenario. The tension reaches a peak when we hear that the man is talking to Lavinia and it is only after that we realise that the man is actually the local police officer. The tension is suddenly brought straight down again. But, as the officer offers to see Lavinia home and she refuses, we can see that there is still a twist in this story yet.

As she gets to the ravine, Bradbury seems to change his style of writing. He uses repetition of words to get his point across. The tension levels seem to go through the roof here as by now, we now that something bad is going to happen to her. She thinks she can see a man on the ravine and the usual short sentences of how fast her heart is beating and how scared she feels follow. But, there isn’t a man there and the tension levels are back to zero again.

We then can see a different side to her, her confidence seems to have disappeared and now she is genuinely scared.She thinks that she is being followed as every time she makes a step, an echo of another step follows a fraction of a second later. To the reader, it is obvious that the noise she is hearing is an echo from the ravine of her walking. But yet, it strikes a lot of fear in Lavinia. She then starts to count her steps and this starts to send the tension levels up again.

As this is the last scene, it is a very effective style of writing from Bradbury to draw it out for as long as possible because the longer the reader has to wait to see what is happening to her, the more interested and scared they become.The repetition of her counting the amount of steps until she gets home show us just how scared she actually is. She even realises that she was a fool to refuse to stop at any of her friend’s houses. In the last few moments of the story the tension levels are at zero because Lavinia has reached her house.

Bradbury repeats the word “safe” on numerous occasions. This is to fool the reader into thinking that she actually is safe. But, the story finishes on a very powerful cliffhanger sending the tension levels sky high again. As she is in the house, she turns on the light switch.Behind her, in the black living-room, someone cleared his throat…

‘ This is a very powerful way of finishing the story as still, the reader is unclear what has happened to Lavinia. We know that she is in danger, but with Bradbury not telling us the final outcome, it makes the reader use their imaginations as to what happened, further enhancing the stories fear factor. A Terribly Strange Bed was written by Wilkie Collins. It starts off from a person’s perspective who is telling a story of something that happened to him.

Just as “The whole towns sleeping” it has many similarities. The title is very uninformative and leaves the reader not having any idea of what the story is about. It leaves the reader with many thoughts: “What is so strange about the bed? ” “If something is so strange, why is it terribly strange? ” It is things like this that help to create a great sense of fear for the reader. Right from the start we can see that something bad is going to happen in this story. There are two men and they are looking for a night out gambling.The narrator (who is the English man in the story) tells us about how they had a choice between two different places to go gambling.

A place called ‘Frascati’s’ or a place where “they don’t mind letting in a man with a ragged coat, ragged or otherwise” We immediately think this is strange because he has chosen to go to a more down market place than a nice comfortable one. This makes the reader feel as if it is here that something bad will happen and the men will encounter the “Terribly Strange Bed”Collins raises the tension just as Bradbury did in “The whole towns sleeping” He makes the reader feel uneasy at many situations in this story which in another story, wouldn’t be frightening or disturbing at all, but seen as we know the story is called “A Terribly Strange Bed”, we know that these seemingly innocent and normal situations, are going to lead to trouble. The reader sees that the English man starts to have a lot of luck on the gambling tables. Normally the reader would see this as a very good situation in another location but the reader has a sense that him winning all this money is going to lead to him being harmed in some way.Bradbury draws out situations to maximise their fear feeling.

The way in which he talks about the English mans luck and winning on the table, the way he keeps saying “higher and higher” “at stakes which some dare not risk” helps to make the reader even more aware of the danger that this man could be in. It seems inevitable that something is going to happen to the English man when his English friend gives him several warnings to leave the gambling house with his winnings and to be satisfied with what he had without any trouble occurring. But he refuses and his friend leaves.Not only does this make us realise the English mans stupidity but also makes him be in an even worse situation now that he is all alone in a room full of strangers. When the English man seems to have had enough gambling (by now he has accumulated a huge sum of money) the reader becomes very suspicious of a man that gives advice to the English man about looking after his money. Immediately we start to suspect him of being dishonest. It seems to good to be true with the way that Collins has wrote the story. To make the situation even worse, the man who is offering to help the English man reveals that he was a French soldier.

This means that the English man is in more danger, as French soldiers would have had deep hatred of the English from previous wars. Also, in his pleasant way, he offers the English man a bottle of champagne. This is very suspicious because if the English man got drunk, the situation could be ten times worse. We can see that the Soldier has slipped something into his drink as the English man says that he felt as if he had been “drinking liquid fire”.

He was stone drunk and now the Soldier was all alone with him trying to help him into his room.The soldier tries to make out that he is not out to rob him, yet trying to help him but the reader can’t help but be suspicious at him. We also realise that we are about to encounter this “Terribly Strange Bed” and the reader’s tension increases more. The scene then changes to the bedroom. We still get a little feeling that nothing might happen to the man because he tells how he locked and bolted the door to his room to be safe. This lures the reader into a false sense of security and leads to the tension being felt even more effectively.

He then uses his tactic of drawing out a situation to maximise the fear factor. He talks for at least 20 lines about how the man is struggling to sleep. Then, he moves onto his description of the bed. He is very descriptive of the bed, down to the last detail. When the bed starts moving we still don’t know if it is the man feeling this way because of how drunk he is or if the bed is actually moving. It is this uncertainty that Collins has used very well to not only keep the reader interested in the book, but to make them scared as well.Both writers in both stories use very similar methods to create a sense of fear for the reader.

They use very descriptive long words and phrases to make the reader feel as if nothing is going to happen and then change the speed and tempo of the story to where something is going to happen. They change the narrative of the story to a different persons perspective and this keeps the reader interested and feeling a sense of fear at the same time. They quickly change scenes and situations in the book to where the tension levels are really high one minute and really low another.