This piece compares and contrasts two short stories. One story is ‘The Black Veil’ and was written by Charles Dickens pre 1900. The other story is ‘The Darkness Out There’ and was written by Penelope Lively post 1900. The title ‘The Black Veil’ refers to the presentation and behaviour of the main female character in the story. During the tale she hides behind her veil, and the reason for her distress is also hidden. The veil symbolises the events, and the title reflects the gloom and the mystery of this story. The title for the other story is much more forthright.
The reader knows the tale is about darkness in the world. However, the darkness not only refers to creepiness that can be found in a dark wood, but it also relates to a hidden type of darkness that can be found in a person, in this case an old lady. ‘The Black Veil’ is a story that keeps you guessing right until the very end. However, from the start the reader knows that something suspicious and tragic is about to happen. The lady in ‘the black veil’ seeks the help of a new young doctor, but her requests are confusing and bewildering.
“Tomorrow morning, he of whom I speak will be, I know, though I would fain think otherwise, beyond the reach of human aid; and yet, tonight, though he is in deadly peril, you must not see, and could not serve, him. ” At the very end of the story, the reason why the doctor cannot help is revealed. The woman’s son is to be hung, and her aim is to get the doctor to see the body following the hanging just in case they can bring him back to life. “The man is dead. ” “Oh! Don’t say so sir! I cannot bear it!
Men have been brought to life, before, when unskilful people have given them up for lost; and men have died, who might have been restored if proper means had been resorted to. ” The story of ‘The Darkness Out There’ is a tale about the fear associated with a local wood. It is described through the eyes of a young girl, who alongside a young boy, is helping to clean and tidy the house and garden of an old lady. The girl talks about ‘witches and wolves’ that she imagined lived in the wood when she was younger.
“Sometimes they’d go there for a dare (the wood), several of them, skittering over the field and into the edge of the trees, giggling and shrieking, not too far in, just far enough for it to be scary, for the branch shapes to look like faces, and clawed hands, for the wolves to rustle and creep into the greyness you wouldn’t quite see into, the clotted shifting depths of the place”. As she has grown older, those fears have been replaced with a memory of a crash during the war of a German plane in the woods, along with other things like attacks on young innocent girls.
At the end of the story, it becomes clear that the old lady was responsible for the murder of one of the German pilots who was involved in the plane crash. She and her sister failed to get help for the soldier over a period of two days, and eventually he died. The story of the ‘Black Veil’ begins with a young doctor in his comfortable home, dreamily thinking of his ambitions for the future. The language is gentle and happy for he is sitting by a ‘cosy fire’ and his wife’s voice is ‘merry and sweet’. However, almost immediately the writer transforms the mood of the story to something tense and secretive.
The doctor is wrenched from his dreams and is presented with a mysterious woman dressed totally in black, her face covered by a black veil. The scene becomes clear in the readers mind, with the cold, dark night bringing forth a hopeless and desperate female. The doctor is thrown into a strange situation full of questions, but no answers. The mood of helplessness is conjured up with the women’s physical and emotional description and words. She is ‘shrouded and concealed’ in black, and she is ‘saturated in mud and rain’. The tone of her words are full of despair.