The Old Nurse's Story (E. Gaskell) And The Axe (P. Fitzgerald): Of The Two Stories You Have Read, Which Do You Think Is The Most Effective Ghost Story? Which Story Do You Prefer And Why?

2139 words - 9 pages

English ghost stories became popular in 1855 when a tax reform brought about the withdrawal of duty on newspapers. This brought about a magazine boom that fed the large literate middle class who were thirsty for sensation. To satisfy their readers, magazines needed stories and promised "fiction of powerful interest". Charles Dickens owned one of the most popular periodicals of the time - All the Year Round, first published in 1859. Dickens filled the bumper Christmas editions with his stories, forgoing the Christmas link to ghost stories for the modern age. They were a popular feature for the season where "pocketbooks were opened a little wider than usual".Ghost stories were much more popular in the 1900s because there were few forms of entertainment. They were a lot more effective in those days - the typical flickering candlelight and crackling fires provided a suitable atmosphere for its transmission. According to Jung, television and cinema has dampened our "primitive feelings and apprehensions".Despite some people's beliefs that civilisation has bred the ability to be scared out of us, a well-written ghost story will still have the desired effect. For this to happen there are important ingredients one must include. A strong sense of place or of the elements is essential and every detail must be carefully selective. Of course, there must be a classic location that gets cut off; typically, it has always been a gothic tower or a cemetery, but a suburban house could work equally as well. A ghost story would not be satisfying without a real ghost - an image of someone who has died - and a reason for the ghost to haunt - effects on the past and present. A moral would be preferable, as there would be added satisfaction if there were a point to the story besides scaring the reader. To be truly frightening the story has to contain a core of credibility and should have a slow build up of tension and mysterious or unexplained events. Lastly, the narrative style of the story is important. The author should think carefully about how it will be told, by whom and why.After reading the two ghost stories The Old Nurse's Story and The Axe, I have found that there are many differences and similarities between them. The Old Nurse's Story had a very strong sense of the elements."...the sky hung heavy over the white earth, as if night had never truly gone away; and the air, though still, was very biting and keen."The story takes place in winter, around Christmastime in late afternoons and nights. Christmastime was a popular theme for nineteenth century ghost stories to be set. Night-time arrives earlier in winter and the chill, creeping shadows and brittle, claw-like trees set the ideal atmosphere for sinister events. There are reoccurring mentions of the holly trees:"...black marks on the hillside, where no other bush was for miles around..."These tie in with the Christmas theme and could also be a subtle symbolism of danger. Holly trees are prickly and have...

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