How Two of My Favourite Short Stories Evoke Horror

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By: Rebecca Ann Menezes

I feel that the short stories: The Yellow Wall Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs were most effective in making me feel tense and the intended mood, projected by the writers in their different styles and layouts of writing. This included their tones, and their two very different concepts of supernatural and realistic horror.

The Titles

The titles: The Yellow Wall Paper and Monkey’s Paw have two different senses of horror that are alluring for the readers. Monkey’s Paw brings a sense of direct horror and ere because monkey’s do not have paws, and to imagine two things that do not belong together, as a piece, automatically brings in the concept of supernatural, especially when considering it is just the ‘paw’ and not the entire body and the fact that it is a dead body part of a previously living animal. The Yellow Wall Paper seems like a normal, everyday object, so to have a title as such makes the reader question as to what could be so interesting about the paper that a story was written about it. In this way both titles bring about a mysterious sense that is quite ominous as we know it hints at the theme of horror.

Some Serious Situations

“…dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide-plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions” – this is The Yellow Wall Paper described by the woman. In my opinion, when one analyses this, it can be said that it portrays the woman’s subconscious views and feeling to do with her outcome that may be referred to as “destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions” which could interpret her future desire to “plunge off at outrageous angles” and “suddenly commit suicide” as the pattern of the wall paper does. The potential subtext in this realistic description evokes horror as it shows the reader how serious her situation is, and the scare that her conscious brain does not realise it, even though it may lead to something as harsh as death, is almost disturbing.

This theory is reinforced when the woman notes:  “I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise,” this frightens me, to think that something so largely disturbing can come from restricting someone. “”It had a spell put on it by an old fakir,” said the sergeant-major, “a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.”” – this is the supernatural back ground story of the Monkey’s Paw told by sergeant-major. Personally, I feel that the mystery that arouses from the questions in the readers’ minds, portrays horror in the sense of suspense. Questions such as “Does it really work?”, “what does he mean by ‘did so to their sorrow’?” and “what’s going to happen?” come to mind at this point, inducing a feeling of uncertainty of the ominous events of the future from the horror that is this Monkey’s Paw.

Creepy Imagery

“”I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”… so that I had to creep over him every time!” from this in The Yellow Wall Paper, our questions are answered. The realistic possibility of one going mad in an overly controlled environment is shown and we finally see that the woman she saw in the wall paper trying to break free is her subconscious mind’s interpretation of her situation. And as the picture of this gets clearer, it is documented that she gets worse, so the change in clarity of the picture shows the progression of the woman’s madness or sickness. This effective imagery of the woman crawling over her fainted husband in the room over and over, ‘round and round and round–round and round and round’ the room is disturbing; especially knowing that it came from this woman that started out to be perfectly sane, yet ends up the opposite in such little time because of her constricted routine. There is such horror in knowing that this madness is so easily attainable. “”I wish for two hundred pounds,” said the old man distinctly… “It moved,” he cried, with a glance of disgust at the object as it lay on the floor. “As I wished it twisted in my hands like a snake.”” This supernatural possibility is almost disgustingly horrible, as what is meant to be inanimate, or rather once alive but now should be very dead, is moving and granting wishes! This supernatural effect of giving an inanimate object power and life, is similar to what Gilman does with the wall paper, as it too portrays life; the life of the woman.

To Conclude

In conclusion, both writers insist we find horror in even the most obscure things, be it a cursed paw or dreaded yellow wall paper. Realistic horror makes it very effective as there is great chance of it actually happening, influencing the reader more towards the mood. Supernatural horror allows the reader to imagine further as there are no boundaries to what is not completely certain, influencing the reader by it’s tone, mood and imagery. So, in my opinion, I feel that both writers convey horror in the two concepts of supernatural and realistic horror, effectively.


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