“A Terribly Strange Bed” and “The Whole Town Is Sleeping” Essay Sample

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The setting of “The Whole Town Is Sleeping” is dark and dreary at night but during the day it is a completely normal town. The ravine is shadowy and creepy especially as there is a killer out. It says

“Not with the lonely one strangling women”

This makes the whole town even more isolated and frightening especially at night. The ravine is scary because it is out of the way of all civilisations even more so with the killer on the loose. The setting of the story is set at night so all shops are closed and people are peeping through there curtains making it all seem so much more creepy.

The setting in a “The Whole Town Is Sleeping” creates mystery and tension because there is nobody outside at night which is when this story is set because of the murderer. This creates a feeling of danger because if you are out and you end up seeing the murderer not many people, if any will be around to help.

“A Terribly Strange Bed” is set in a poverty stricken casino. This place is never a nice place like Illinois in “The Whole Town Is Sleeping” when it is nice during the day. It is frightening during the day and at night because of dodgy people and because the casino is poverty-stricken. The people are dodgy because they can’t really afford to be in the casino and are obviously intent on winning money.

One of the characters is one of the young men at beginning of the story who is looking for something different. He can obviously afford a more up market club because he has just finished college and blows five-franc pieces often. It says

“had lost and won plenty of five-franc pieces there”

He is after a challenge, which is what he will get going to a seedy casino because nobody will be rich and they will do anything to cheat.

Another character is the dirty wrinkled old man because he shows how the casino is for poor people because he has just lost his last coin. He also sums up the atmosphere in there because he doesn’t talk as does none of the other characters in the club except for the croupier and is voice was dull. It says

“the dirty, wrinkled old man, with the vulture eyes and the darned greatcoat, who had lost his last sou, and still looked on desperately after he could play no longer- never spoke.”

This man looks like a beggar because he is scruffy and can’t afford to play anymore because he has spent his last coin on gambling. He is also probably a drunk who throws all his money away on booze and gambling. If he sums up the people in the room then obviously the two men don’t belong there because they can afford greater things.

This makes you wonder what the two young men are doing in this casino when they should just go to a classier joint.

This creates mystery and tension because you know the two young gentlemen don’t belong in a place like this and you have a feeling that something is going to happen to them just from the setting.

In “The Whole Town Is Sleeping” the story is written in the third person so at the end of the story we are left in suspense not knowing what as happened to the woman. This is effective for this story because the ending leaves you in suspense. This story also uses long and short sentences. This is effective because when the sentences are short it adds pace and excitement to the story. For example when Lavinia is walking home alone the pace of the story picks up speed because she starts panicking about the murderers. It says

“The key fitted.

‘Unlock the door, quick, quick!’

The door opened.

‘Now inside. Slammed it!’

She slammed the door.”

This tells the reader that Lavinia is in a rush to get in and believes that the murderer is right behind her. It tells us this because the narrator starts to use exclamation points to make it more dramatic. The narrator also uses repetition for the words “quick” and “slammed”. This creates tension because she is obviously worrying and trying to get in her house quickly.

“A Terribly Strange Bed” is written in the first person so you aren’t left in suspense because the person is telling the story himself and if he just stopped telling you it would seem silly and have no effect at all. When the man is in bed everything starts spinning and moving. You don’t know if this is due to alcohol or if the owners of the casino are doing it so they can take back the money that he won. It says

“Was the bed moving?”

This tells the reader that the man had been drinking heavily because he can’t be sure, but the owners of the club might have spiked his drink because they want the money back he has won. Or are the owners of the club actually moving the bed? As you keep the reading the story the bed is actually moving and somebody is trying to kill this man to get his money back.

This creates mystery and tension because the man fears for his life and the mystery is how and who is moving the bed? This makes the casino even worse and makes the reader again wonder why this man as come in it and agreed to stop over night with this bundle of money he has.

The main character in “The Whole Town Is Sleeping” is Lavinia. She never worries about the murderer throughout the story and just seems to laugh it off. She is always cool and a little bit reckless because she doesn’t feel she can be attacked. Her over confidence is summed up towards the end of the story when she says she’ll be all right walking home alone. She even walks down the ravine alone which some people wouldn’t even do during daylight.

Some examples of her over confidence from the book are:

“‘I’m just not afraid,’ said Lavinia. ‘And I’m curious, I suppose. And I’m using my head. Logically, the Lonely One can’t be around. The police and all.'”

This is reckless because the police can’t be everywhere at once. Another example of her na�ve thinking is when she turns down a walk home from a policeman. It says

“‘I’d better see you home.’

‘Never mind, I’ll make it.’

By saying this it is almost as if she wants to see the murderer.

Lavinia’s friend Helen also creates tension because she is so worried about the murderer; this is completely different to what Lavinia is like. Helen creates tension because she makes it sound like the murderer is going to kill every woman who is out at night. She says

“I’ve a notion to lock myself in my house.”

This is the feeling of many people in the town apart from Lavinia.

The narrator of “A Terribly Strange Bed” is very similar to Lavinia because he is also reckless and na�ve. He shows he is reckless by going into a poverty stricken casino and staying over night with a bag of money although he could easily afford to go to a more upmarket casino. You would think he was stupid going into this casino because of the risk. He gets carried away with gambling, which is why he went to the poverty stricken casino for a different challenge. He is way too over confident that nothing bad will happen to him although nothing does in the end, he did come close to losing his life. An example of his recklessness is when he agrees to stay the night. The old soldier says

“It would be madness to go home in your state; you would be sure to lose your money; you might be robbed and murdered with the greatest ease.”

This is what will happen to the narrator but only if he stops in the casino over night, but he foolishly agrees to stop.

The ending is more dramatic in “The Whole Town Is Sleeping” because it stops on a cliffhanger. It starts with Lavinia counting each step at the ravine to reassure herself because she is no longer feeling cool and fearless now she is on her own. It says

“‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine steps,’ she whispered.”

She is obviously terrified because she wouldn’t be whispering to herself if she were feeling calm. I mean when do you ever count to yourself, but when you’re scared. When she got home her heart rate started to lower but when she went to switch the light on somebody cleared his voice. This creates tension and mystery because we don’t know whom it is and what is he doing in her house? It finishes

“Behind her, in the black living-room, someone cleared his throat. . .”

“A Terribly Strange Bed” has a completely different finish to it because the story doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. The narrator escaped through a window and immediately contacted the police. The old soldier was in fact the master of the casino and had been kicked out of the army and had been guilty of all sorts of villainies since.

The narrator has learned from his experience unlike Lavinia who could well have been killed.

Both endings are effective but I think “The Whole Town Is Sleeping” creates the most tension and mystery because you don’t know what as happened to Lavinia and you can only imagine the worst.

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