The three stories analyzed in this paper are different in all possible ways. There is a gap in some 100 years between Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and the works of King and Pratchett. Despite the fact that King wrote “The Raft” only ten years before Pratchett created “The Troll Bridge”, these two stories differ greatly. Pratchett’s work is full of irony and sarcasm; it is not aiming at scaring the reader, while the stories of Poe and King leave one with a feeling of terror and unpleasant surprise. It seems that everything is different – the settings, characters, and plots. However, the aim of this paper is to show that despite all the differences the three short stories share some important common elements.
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The three stories have different plots, although there are still some minor common elements. Thus instead of describing all the numerous differences, it is essential to note the similarities, which are common to all three short stories.
Each of the stories includes some form of a quest. If in Poe’s work it is just a trip to a friend’s house, King describes a trip of four people, which ends on a raft. Finally, Pratchett focuses on a full-fledged quest of Cohen the Barbarian in search of a Troll. Therefore, all three plots have main characters travel.
The second similarity of the three stories is that all heroes meet something (or someone) unusual and supernatural. Moreover, Pratchett’s hero is used to meeting trolls and other fantasy heroes, but we do not observe that in other stories. At the same time, the college students are obviously terrified when they first encounter the unusual creature in the lake and the creature ‘eats’ their friend Rachel. The narrator in “The Fall of the House of Usher” faces the presumably haunted house and then – the appearance of Madeline, who was buried alive. Thus, all three stories describe a meeting with supernatural powers of different sort.
Lastly, all three short stories deal with the issue of death while two of them actually describe multiple deaths. “The Troll Bridge” tells only about the desire of Cohen the Barbarian to kill a troll. In addition, even though there are no actual deaths in “The Troll Bridge”, the story includes memories of the past battles. Moreover, death or, rather, a death threat makes Cohen start his quest. “The Fall of the House of Usher” has two deaths of the Usher family members and the actual fall of the house, which can symbolize the death of the completely ancient family that ended on Roderick Usher and his sister. “The Raft” vividly describes the deaths of four characters. King’s imagery is very bright and bloody, especially with Deke’s death. Consequently, all three stories have death as one of the main plot elements.
The number and type of characters differ from story to story. Despite some plot similarities, heroes of the three stories differ significantly. Therefore, it is logical to analyze main heroes of each story separately. This is the only possible way to see, how dissimilar all the characters are.
“The Troll Bridge” has Cohen the Barbarian who is the story’s protagonist, and Mica the Troll, who is set as an antagonist. Although, there are many similarities between the two characters and they share many common ideas and views, Cohen and Mica are still on the different sides. One of them is a famous hero, while another is a troll, his enemy.
Edgar Alan Poe’s story seems to have no human antagonists. It is rather a house, which stands against Roderick Usher, the main antagonist of the story. It seems like there is a constant battle between Usher and the house. Nevertheless, at the same time everything may be even more complicated, as a closer study gives an idea that Usher incorporates both – the protagonist and antagonist of the story. He is constantly fighting against himself, against his own mind and new feelings and ideas that it creates.
In “The Raft” Randy, one of the two males, can be called as a protagonist, as King focuses on his feelings and memories more than he does on others. Moreover, Randy is the last character left alive, thus he is of the major importance. At the same time the antagonist is not a human being. Furthermore, this antagonist does not have any character or distinctive features. It does not even have any shape. It is pure danger and death.
All three short stories are set in different locations. Two of them happen in the nature – one on the lake in the middle of nowhere and another – on a bridge in a forest. The third story takes place in a manor house in a huge park. There is something common to the settings – all of them are secluded. Even though there are cities and developed civilizations, heroes of the three stories have their unusual encounters in places that are either rarely visited (“The Troll Bridge”), or are temporarily abandoned (“The Raft”). The second important similarity is the time of the year when the stories are set. All three stories take place in the cold and gloomy part of the year – either autumn or winter. This cheerless season adds a downbeat element to each of the stories. Therefore, despite all the seeming differences of all three settings, they still show some important similarities that contribute to the overall mood of each of the stories.
The mood of all the studied stories might show the main difference between the three. Despite some comparable elements in plot and settings, mood is something that clearly distinguishes all three stories. At the same time each of the short stories has some mood elements that are very characteristic for their authors.
Poe’s story is gloomy, spooky and has the definite melancholic tone that is common for the majority of his works. This author has a unique ability to create a peculiar atmosphere of doom and guilt at the same time (Meyers, 1992, p. 111). There is not much action, but the author creates a very peculiar atmosphere, which makes the reader doubt the sanity and truthfulness of all that is written. On the contrary to Poe, King’s story includes much more action, it starts on a positive and cheerful note, but constantly gets darker. At some point the story becomes pure horror, full with blood and emotions. Finally, “The Troll Bridge” creates a rather sad and nostalgic feeling, with wonderful sarcastic elements in the dialogues and relationships between the characters. It lacks the gloom and horror of the two other stories, but wins in terms of realism and irony.
This essay discussed short stories of three famous authors, Edgar Allan Poe, Terry Pratchett, and Stephen King for a comparative study. It is clear that all three pieces of literature are very different. They have not only been written in different times, but their plots, scenery, characters, and moods differ significantly. However, despite all the differences, there are some elements of sameness shared by the three short stories. The majority of similar features are in the plot and themes of the literary works. First and foremost, all three stories cover the topic of death. Secondly, all of them have some form of a trip as a part of the plot. Lastly, all heroes meet supernatural powers or creatures. Another similarity is presented in the setting, as all events happen in secluded areas in cold (or at lease cool) season. In conclusion, despite all the similar things one can find in the three short stories, they present very different types of literature.
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