In the 19th century short stories dramatically increased in popularity due to their appearances in magazines and newspapers, the fact that printing was much more widely available was another factor that helped increase the popularity for the short story. Short Stories were also a good source of income for authors as writers would have received a good amount of money for publishing their stories in various pieces for public viewing, by appearing in such pieces vast amounts of people would have been given the chance to read them.
Cliff hangers and twists are often polrtrayed in the genre of short stories. The basic elements of a short story include a beginning, in which the reader is thrown into action. The tension contained in the story rises to a high extent and the end usually consists of a cliff hanger or twist. High tension is usually sustained throughout a short story, as opposed to novels. Short stories can often be didactic and seek to tell a moral truth.
In short stories the beginning is key, it entices the reader and can immediately build up a sense of suspense to keep the reader interested and set the tone for the duration of the tale. Short story authors would have tried to create an opening which is very engaging for the casual reader. The authors would also have used different techniques in their story to give audiences satisfaction and suspense. It is important for me consider how the authors used these different techniques to create stories which vary greatly but convey a good sense of mystery.
An arrest immediately immerses the reader into a sense of horror and creates a great deal of suspense, “having murdered his brother,” a very chilling opening sentence, the verb “murdered,” creates a sense of mystery since it builds a theme of criminality. Bierce has been very successful at opening the tale by doing so, as it quickly adds mystery leaving the reader hungry for more since no other information is given, leaving us inquisitive. It also instantly builds fear in the reader towards this ruthless character. Bierce adds further mystery and fear by showing how composed the character Orrin Brower is, “opening the outer door walking out into the night,” making an almost impossible task sound simple, building a further sense of dread..
In contrast Napoleon and the spectre similarly contains an engaging opening paragraph. Brontï¿½, alike Bierce uses the sense of darkness to build the suspense, creating an eerie and mysterious atmosphere engaging the reader from the beginning. I didn’t quite get the same fear from the opening of Napoleon and the Spectre than that of An Arrest. Nevertheless, Brontï¿½ has been successful through the use of a fast pace, taking the reader into a field of high drama, “Scarcely had he settled into a peaceful attitude.”
In comparing the stories there is little variation in the setting. In An Arrest we are reminded of the dark surroundings through the use of the night sky which is lacking stars and moon to provide light, “the night was pretty dark, neither moon nor stars visible.” The story follows the gothic convention of a gloomy setting and atmosphere, “from the county jail.” Jails are usually thought of as disgusting places, full of gloom, horror and bad actions.
A setting such as this gives a stereotypical image of Orrin Brower; a brutal and thug- like man. The background later becomes that of a forest which we are told is wild adding to the lack of light and difficulty of the terrain Brower faced, “region was wilder than it is now.” This is successful in creating mystery and a suitable region for a ghost story. The reader understands that Brower had never encountered this location before building the tension, “never dwelt thereabout.” This is presented again but about the sky “moon sealed into a patch of unclouded sky” promoting an eerie feeling.
The setting of Napoleon and the Spectre is similar to that of An Arrest, since they are both set during the night and the deserted streets alike the desolate town in An Arrest. This sense of loneliness is a good method of building fear and is common in most ghost stories. The opening of Brontï¿½’s story is effective since it is set in a gloomy room where it is easy for her to portray a sense of fear. However the setting throughout the rest of the story is not as effective in creating a fearful mood, as a street in Paris does not convey the same tension and mystery than that of a deserted wood in An Arrest.
Brontï¿½ builds up a rather eerie and frightening atmosphere by describing the sudden sounds and sharp actions; “a deep groan bust,” “seizing his pistols,” “dead silence followed,” in using these phrases it leads to an increasingly tense atmosphere allowing the suspense to build within the reader. This is backed up through the use of dark lighting and short phrases creating a fast-flowing pace. Brontï¿½ creates a horror atmosphere by describing the character in great detail allowing it to appear intimidating, “eyes are all glazed and bloodshot.” There is also the use of a dreamy atmosphere when they both step through wall making it suddenly seem surreal, “the solid wall of the apartment fell open.” Brontï¿½ has been effective in the way she created a mysterious feel about the story as the reader is left guessing till the end.
Alike Napoleon and the Spectre, Bierce has also been effective in conveying a suitably tense atmosphere allowing the reader to feel uneasy. He explains how susceptible Orrin Brower is by describing the difficulty of his task, “got no weapon,” building the suspense and allowing the reader to feel anxious. This is extended when Bierce uses “bloodhounds,” allowing the reader to assume the prospect of vicious dogs on Brower’s tail and the reality he faced. The mysterious atmosphere is emphasised when Brower is alone with the unknown character, “they entered the town, which was all alight, but deserted.”
Comparing to Bronte, Bierce uses much less description when referring to the ghost The presence of the supernatural is hinted when Bierce describes what is in the sight of Brower, “saw the visible embodiment of Law lift its arm and point,” this is an example of the gothic conventions. A combination of short and long sentences steps up the climax of the story, “…..him. He understood.” Building tension quickly is a major element of the genre in short stories. Evidence of the supernatural is again indicated later, “deep shadow.” This is referring to a ghost; however, the reader does not know this. Suspense is built, given to the fact that we only find out what is happening, as the murderer does. We can also see how afraid Brower despite being composed previously, “hardly daring to breathe,” showing how frightening it must have been for Brower. Bierce’s depiction of the supernatural is very effective as the reader can feel the fear Brower must have felt through the way he describes the ghost in an eerie and daunting way.
Brontï¿½ gives a lot of detail when referring to the spectre, trying to build up a fearful image, “tongue protruded from beneath the teeth and the eyes all glazed.”She also includes various characteristics such as, “tall” and “dark,” trying to expose the spectre in an intimidating way. Brontï¿½ also allows the spectre to come across as demanding and aggressive as he orders the emperor about, “Silence,’ said the guide.” However in comparison with An Arrest Napoleon is much less scared at the prospect of a ghost than Orrin Brower. I personally do not find Brontï¿½’s representation of the supernatural as convincing.
Simple and spare language is used at the beginning of this story in An Arrest, however Bierce still creates anxiety by his sentence patterning, they are put in chronological order taking the reader step by step, “from the county jail where he had been confined to await his trial he had escaped by knocking down his jailer with an iron bar, robbing him of his keys and, opening the outer door, walking into the night.” By taking the reader through the process of the escape, it keeps building up suspense until eventually it reaches a climax. This helps to aid the rhythm and pace. Bierce quickly turns the language tone from simple to unexciting, “he did not wish to assist in his own pursuit,” adding tension.
On the contrary Brontï¿½ uses much more direct speech to introduce the characters, “It was but an ocular delusion.”She also uses clever explanations to relieve building tension, “Half ashamed of himself he returned to bed.” Brontï¿½ builds suspense through the use of fearsome adjectives, “This threat produced no other effect than a short, sharp laugh, and a dead silence followed.” “Dead” refers to the room as being so quiet it was almost lifeless. In addition, the words “a short, sharp laugh” show how the spectre mocks the emperor, trying to build up a frightening image for the reader. Doyle also uses a similar method in The Adventure of the Speckled Band by providing detailed description to build a clear image, “her face drawn and gray, with restless, frightened eyes.”
Napoleon and the Spectre is narrated in the third person creating a sense of reporting the story. In An Arrest and Napoleon and the Spectre, the narrator does not reveal a personal thought or opinion creating a sense of detachment can be as if the narrator has nothing to do with the story and is just telling it allowing the reader to come to their own conclusion about the supernatural happening.
The structure of a short story is very important as it sets the pace allowing the tension is a story like these to build. Brontï¿½ changes the lengths in paragraphs in order to add dramatic intensity to the story, allowing the reader to become more involved allowing it to become more effective. She also uses variations in the lengths of sentences to provide anticlimaxes for the reader. Likewise Bierce also includes variation in the lengths of sentences to heighten the suspense and allow the story to flow at a fast pace. Bierce groups the sentences in an ordered sequence allowing the sense of anxiety to be increased.
When comparing the endings of both stories they are quite different. Bierce uses an unusual yet dramatic ending to finish of his story which is in a very short paragraph, “on a table in the corridor lay the dead body of Burton Duff.” The simple choice of words adds shock to the fact that the ghost previously was actually his conscience, surprising the reader. This ending backs up the moral meaning of justice held throughout.
In comparison to the ending used by Bierce, I was rather disappointed in Napoleon and the Spectre, since the mystery built up in the story does not end with a major incident. The length of the paragraph also adds to the straightforwardness of the finale, “the Emperor immediately fell into a fit of catalepsy, in which he continued during the whole of that night and the greater part of the next day.” Personally I think that Bronte was not very effective in concluding her story as it lets the reader down.
In conclusion I found both stories well constructed and effective, however I found An Arrest more effective as a mystery short story. Since, although it was short and concise, Bierce has been very effective in displaying the tension and providing a climatic ending which satisfies the reader. I thought that in general Napoleon and the Spectre was quite effective in providing suspense and mystery however I feel that Bronte could have allowed the atmosphere around the Spectre to seem more threatening. I also think that she could have given a more successful ending since I did not find it convincing which did not live up to the story.