Thomas Hardy lived between 1840-1928. He was brought up in Higher Brockhampton in Dorset. New technological developments were appearing all over the country, like railways and development of industry. As these wonders hadn’t reached his part of the country yet, they still believed in country folk traditions and superstitions. Thomas Hardy liked to use these superstitions in his writings. The background to The Superstitious Man’s Story is about a man who is travelling home on a stagecoach. He’s been away 25 years and while travelling, is being told stories by the country folk.
L P Hartley (1895-1972) was a well-off child as his father was a solicitor. He was educated at Harrow and Oxford. He liked to deal with the difference between reality and what people think is reality. He also liked using symbols in is stories. The Night Fears story is set after World War One when fewer people believed in ghosts, but what was scaring people was what was in their own minds. A scientist, Freud, was a psychologist and he had shown that such fears and paranoia could come from within us. The mood of the start of The Superstitious Man’s Story is very unsettling as it tells you that this is going to be a ghost story.
“You could feel when he came near’ee”. “There seemed to be something clammy in the air”. These two lines already set the story off to a chilling start. You already know that this is going to be a story involving the supernatural. Also we can tell there is going to be a death in this story because of the quote, “William, as you may know, was a curious, … “. However, in the Night Fears story the beginning is very uneventful. Nothing gives anything away that this is a horror story. For instance, “brazier primarily for its warmth” – warmth, does that really happen in a horror story.
I think not, but this is a horror story. The title itself Night Fears could conjure up things in the mind because, at night, all sorts of scary things happen. All people hate their own fears and the title will start everyone’s imagination running. The Superstitious Man’s Story is set in a village in the West Country but the Night Fears story is set during a night watchman’s watch. The first story is written in 1894 so they are still in the farming era. The Night Fears story is set after World War One and is completely outdoors so it only has a single setting.
The Superstitious Man’s Story, on the other hand, is set partly indoors and partly outdoors. William Privett is the main character in The Superstitious Man’s Story. He is described as a “curious, silent man”. He had a ghostly feel about him because it was said when he came ‘near’ee, you felt clammy, “as if a cellar door was opened close by your elbow”. The main character in Night Fears is a night watchman. He is quite a fearful man as, when he first started the job, he was scared of the dark and the light; the dark because he feared what it could conceal; the light because it shows him up in the dark.
He felt the light “increased his helplessness”. The two main characters are similar in the way they both end up dead in different circumstances because one kills himself, the other dies from illness. I find Mrs Privett believable because she can tell, even before Nancy Weedle told her that she has seen William entering the church, what Nancy was going to say. I find she is believable because it is something I think would happen. When she is in the house, she sees William go out and not come back but he is upstairs. She believes in tradition so she knows he is going to die.
I also find the mysterious character in Night Fears very believable because I like the thought that he is something thought up by the night watchman’s mind; in a way he is almost like his conscience. The Night Watchman kills himself because of all of the doubt and suspicion in his own mind. The Superstitious Man’s Story is told with a country west dialect because the author, Thomas Hardy, was brought up in the West Country. So it is very accented, eg: “Came near’ee”, “me o’t”. But the Night Fears story is in standard English as the author, L P Hartley, went to Harrow and Oxford University.