In short stories, they often make you assume things that are going to happen, as the writer has a limited space to make it a short story. Short stories tend to have a very clear structure- beginning, middle and end. Children are keen on reading short stories, as they are not complex and small number of characters, which make it easier for them to read. Adults also like reading them because they are compact and engaging. ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ and ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ are both classified as horror that the writers ensure the readers will have a horrific moment during the story.
Both stories have a similar theme of expressing tension but are subtly different. ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ is a pre- twentieth century short story, which was written by Wilkie Collins. It is about a young man who finished college in Paris and he likes taking new adventure. ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ by Ray Bradbury, is a more modern story. It is about a middle-age single woman who wants to take risks.
The two stories have many similarities although they were written in completely different eras. The main characters in both of the stories have their similarities, they both have the confidence to take risks and are independent. Lavinia in ‘The Whole Town’s sleeping’ said, ” I’m just not afraid, and I’m curious.” They both are set in the same situation where they would not listen to their friends’ advice. When her friend Francine tried to persuade Lavinia to stay for a night, she said ” No thanks.”
The roles of friends in both of the stories are extremely important. These people always give advice to the main characters, but they never listen to them and lead to a tragic ending. This is shown in ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ when Lavinia’s friend Francine asks her to stay at her house that night, in case anything happen. But Lavinia chooses not to, as she is a risk seeker. Where once again shown her confidence. This also helped to show clearer personality of the main character and built up suspense.
The main contrast in both stories is the language used, ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ was written in the 1900 and it contains many words and phrases that would not have been used in the twentieth century when ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ was written. In addition, Wilkie Collins tended to use archaic language all the way through the story, such as “of all the ghastly respectabilities of such a social anomaly as a respectable gambling-house.”
‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ is written in a third person form which can make the readers less involved. On the other hand, ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ is about the writer’s own experience, which makes the readers feel more involved and makes the story more believable. Tension is also built with the third person form in ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ as the reader is following Lavinia in the story, whereas ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ talks about the past, therefore less tension is built.
The two stories have a similar atmosphere about them; they are both in tense throughout the story. ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ shows horrific imagery of the gambling place. Imagery of death is also shown in the story, “vulture eyes” what Wilkie Collins described the blackguard as. This has shown the reality of blackguardism, also it is hinting something will happen with the blackguards later on in the story. From this line in ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’-“My blood seemed to stand still. A deadly paralysing coldness stole all over me”, which shows how the narrator must have been horrified by the experience. While, ‘The Whole Town’s sleeping’ has also got clear imagery of death, where the town was described with its silence,”. Instead it has a constant eerie imagery throughout the story. “Someone’s following me,” “Someone’s on the steps behind me. I don’t dare to turn round.” Which make people always feel as if they are being observed.
Similarly, both stories have created tension all the way through the story. ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ uses repetition, “safe, safe, safe”, where as ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ uses long descriptions to increase the drama. Alternatively, the pace of ‘ The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ is fast and furious, unlike ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’, where the pace of the story is slow and frustrating. This is shown throughout, as Wilkie Collins tended to describe in full details at the beginning. Although, the pace has increased up to the point, where The French old solider was shouting and crying out, but soon the pace gradually slow down again.
Tension rises up to its climax when inanimate objects were brought to life in ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’, whichcreates a threatening effect on the writer and readers. Equally, tension rises up to its climax in ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ when Lavinia heard someone clear his throat when she thought home was the safest place to be. As the story is written in third person form, tension is also built up at the end- whether she has survived or not. Constant false leads and alarm appeared constantly throughout the whole story, where Lavinia heard a man’s voice singing while she was walking home, and that was Officer Kennedy. However, both stories have certain cliffhangers at the end of each paragraph, which also helped to build up tension.
The two stories are set in different place and written in different eras. ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ is set in Paris, “a delightful city”, while ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ is set in a little town far away from everything, whereas this helped to build up suspense for readers, as bizarre always seem to occur in silence area. Each story has a very contrasting opening and ending. In ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’, Wilkie Collins gives a long and clear description of himself and Paris. While in ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’, the town and the main character are not described in details, where less tension is carried out, as the readers do not feel detached with the characters and the place. With the endings, ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ left a cliffhanger, where suspense was built. But in ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’, it ends with everything is resolved, the writer’s feeling and the moral of the story.
An identical technique was used in both of the stories. The writers tended to use questions to convey the fear of the main character. “What could I do?” says by the main character in ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ while he cannot get into sleep during that remarkable night; Lavinia tried to convince herself while she reached the ravine, “Nothing’s happened, has it? No one around, is there? …Remember that old ghost story you told each other when you are children?”
I found reading short stories is more challenging and enjoyable, as they are more unique and you can get more involved rather than a novel. Personally, I like them because they are short and excitements can be easily built onto it. I also found it is fairly different to novel, where a long plot and an incredible length of introduction are always included. I would say ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ is more effective, as it was written in 20th century, which I found it easier to understand. Also with the contrasting ending where I still do not know Lavinia is alive or not. Which I thought the writer has cleverly left a cliffhanger for the readers to think about the ending on their own. Whereas ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ has an ending where everything is sorted out. It makes the reader feeling less relief.