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The Dickens Project - Archives > Dickens - The Haunted House

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message 1: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments I've got a busy couple of days so I'm going to open the threads up now for the December reads.

Thread for The Haunted House.

NOTE: DO NOT READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE SPOILERS. BECAUSE PEOPLE MAY POST AFTER THEY FINISH EACH STORY, YOU MAY ENCOUNTER INFORMATION ABOUT A PARTICULAR SHORT STORY THAT YOU HAVEN'T READ YET.


message 2: by Lynnm (last edited Dec 01, 2015 02:53PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments The Mortals in the House - Dickens:

AGAIN, IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS, DON'T READ ON!!!

Here, we have the set up. A young man - John - takes up residence in a supposed haunted house with his sister, and all the servants are convinced that it is haunted because of the noises they hear in the house, including a ringing bell.

At each sound, John moves to remove the true cause of the noise, but the servants are so convinced, nothing that he does helps.

The response of the servant, the Odd Girl, is my favorite - and it appears that she puts it on a bit.

It also appears that Ikey, one of the townspeople, is the one who really is making all the noises, and when John says that he is going to get a gun, the noises stop.

So, at the advice of his sister, John gets rid of servants, calls on all his friends to come down to the house, puts them each in a different room, and then calls them together after a few days to find out if they've encountered any ghosts. As I said in the Background thread, Dickens wasn't really interested in creating scary stories; he wanted to have the people in the room encounter their life memories.

The set up remind me of the Canterbury Tales in a way. In the next chapters, each person tells the story of the "ghost" in their room.

One part of the story I got a kick out of was when John introduces his sister's friend, Belinda Bates, a feminist: "She has a fine genius for poetry, combined with a real business earnestness, and "goes in"--to use an expression of Alfred's--for Woman's mission, Woman's rights, Woman's wrongs, and everything that is Woman's with a capital W."

John is obviously not thrilled by all this emphasis on Women. He says that she shouldn't overdo it: "Don't fly at unfortunate men, even those men who are at first sight in your way, as if they were the natural oppressors of your sex; for, trust me, Belinda, they do sometimes spend their wages among wives and daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers; and the play is, really, not all Wolf and Red Riding-Hood, but has other parts in it."

We've encountered these types of women in Dickens' novels. And he never depicts them in a kind light. I'm sure that the first feminists were a bit strident, but they had to be - they were trying to throw off centuries of patriarchy.

Dickens' argument also reminds me of the writings of a man by Joseph Swetnam who wrote a very popular conduct manner in the 1700s called "An Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward and Unconstant Women." His idea of humor: he basically said that women were created to be a man's helper - and she helps him to spend and consume all that he painfully gets through his hard work.


message 3: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments I loved Hesba Stretton's "The Ghost in the Clock Room"!

Whose real name, btw, is Sarah Smith. In the introduction, it says that Hesba is "an acronym of the names of her brothers and sisters" (xvii). Also, that she wrote "evangelical fiction" and "was also known for her sharp business tactics" (xvii). "Her genre was the "street waif" tale; her stories were moral and her children Dickensian, in the most mawkish sense. The effect is that of reading the death of Little Nell over and over again, with added God" (xvii).

Fortunately, this story isn't like that. (Can you imagine reading about Little Nell type characters and plots over and over again...horrors!).

As for this story, to me, it is a bit feminist. Here is Stella, a bit of a flirt with the men, who can't seem to settle down to one man, and then on almost a bet with her sister Barbara who is pushing her to marry, targets the young Mr. Fraser. But it isn't Mr. Fraser that gives her fulfillment, it is gazing at the universe. They fall in love because they have a common interest.

The ending is a bit disappointing. Even today, they seem to go back to traditional roles...Stella's love for Fraser will heal the little girl, etc.

But still, I really liked it.


message 4: by Lynnm (last edited Dec 04, 2015 06:18PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments The Ghost in the Double Room - George Augustus Sala:

This story annoyed me. I just could not understand how someone could shake and shake and not end up dead or some doctor or anyone figuring out that there was something wrong with him.

And then...of course, it is the train.

I did like the ending...unlike Stretton, he does go along with Dickens' idea that the "ghost" was part of the person's experiences. Alfred had a rough train ride to the Haunted House, and the windows in the room rattled.

But there is also something else. In Dickens' story, he mentions that Alfred is considered to be "fast." In other words, he has an inheritance, and he is out and about spending that money rather than having a career, etc. Does the story show Alfred's fear of a traditional life? Having a job, getting married, etc.? The shaking prevents the "ghost" from having those things. And even when the "ghost" realizes it is dream, and then he does get married, etc., Alfred wakes up, and the whole thing is a dream so there is "no marriage, no Tilly" etc. Or am I stretching it a bit?


message 5: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1895 comments Mod
Lynnm wrote: "The Ghost in the Double Room - George Augustus Sala:

This story annoyed me. I just could not understand how someone could shake and shake and not end up dead or some doctor or anyone figuring out ..."


I found parts of this story quite amusing. For example I loved these descriptions of his serious uncle and his waistcoat ...a waistcoat that wavered in hue between sunny buff and a stony drab, which looked so ineffably respectable that I am certain that if it had been presented at the pay counter of any bank in Lombard street the clerks would have cashed it at once for any amount of notes or gold demanded...but whenever a projector or promoter came to him with a plan, my responsible uncle would confer with his waistcoat and within five minutes would either tell the promoter or projector to walk out of his counting-house, or put his name down for a thousand pounds.

While the story does go on a bit too long, the ending with the double wakening is something familiar to many, and I wondered if it was the first "dream sequence" explanation ever used in literature-can anyone remember an earlier one?


message 6: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1895 comments Mod
The Ghost in the Picture Room-by Adelaide Anne Proctor.

After reading the introduction of the author who wrote religious-themed stories I assumed this was the story they described as it was somewhat maudlin-the overly angelic novice who strays far from the straight and narrow.

By the ending, though, I was moved by the simple idea of the parallel life held for us to return to if we chose, and I found the final two lines especially poignant and lovely.


message 7: by Frances, Moderator (last edited Dec 04, 2015 08:35PM) (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1895 comments Mod
The Ghost in the Garden Room by Elizabeth Gaskell

I felt this was the strongest story in the collection, and also the most surprising, It starts with reversals of fortune, an amusing proposal (did anyone else think of "Barkiss is willin' " from David Copperfield?) and then seems to move into a typical tale of simple people who work hard, raise a son, adopt (out of kindness) a girl who grows into a loving and hardworking young woman who they hope will eventually marry their son. But then the story takes a much darker and sadder turn.

While it seems (and we hope) that good will come eventually to young Bessy, it also feels like she and John might just be the next generation of Nathan and Hester.


message 8: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Frances wrote: "The Ghost in the Picture Room-by Adelaide Anne Proctor.

After reading the introduction of the author who wrote religious-themed stories I assumed this was the story they described as it was somewh..."


I wasn't sure what to think about this story. She was overly angelic at the beginning, and therefore, a bit unrealistic. Obviously, the author depicts a young woman who is led astray, but my 21st century mind isn't very upset about a young woman who wants to explore the exciting world that the Knight describes.

Also with 21st century eyes, he's more to blame than she is because he takes advantage of her kindness and her naivete, knowing full well how society will negatively view her.

Of course, this was written in the 19th century, and in that century, women don't get to go and explore the world, and if they do, they are to blame.

But I did like that she is given a second chance and the idea of forgiveness.

Not my favorite so far, but it definitely held my attention.


message 9: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments I'm a bit behind because the semester is ending, but now that I'll have more free time, I figure, one story per day until I've finished.

So, I just finished Wilkie Collins' The Ghost in the Cupboard Room. As usual, well done by Mr. Collins. At first, I was a bit confused - he's frightened of a candle and candlestick? Hmmm.... But then you learn why, and you don't blame Nat Beaver for being afraid of a candle and candlestick!!

When Dickens' introduces Nat Beaver in the first story, he says that he's intelligent and experienced, but a bit nervous. Understandable after hearing his story.

Interesting - if brief - psychological drama. First, he fights, but then he begins to lose his mind - even thinking of his sister and mother - when he thinks he about to be blown up.

As an American, was happy that the Yankees saved the day, although if they came a few minutes later, they would have probably all blown up.

And a bit of history as well...the Spanish vs. the British yet again.


message 10: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments My goodness - it took me forever to finish this. One, because I'm not thrilled with the stories, and two, it seems that others feel the same way (or can't get a copy of the stories) because no one else is commenting.

So, for the end:

The Ghost in Master B's Room by Dickens - Very confusing. And had nothing to do with the ghost; it was all about the narrator going on a journey where he has a pretend harum.

The Ghost in the Garden Room by Gaskell - good story by at the same time cliche with nothing new added in. The prodigal son, the disappointed and upset parents, and the young lady he leaves behind broken hearted. I liked all the characters, but everything was telegraphed way in advance - for example, I knew the son would come to try to get more of his father's money in the stocking. I didn't know how, but I knew he would.

The Ghost in the Corner Room by Dickens - Very short, 3 pages. Everyone has a happy ending. The End.


message 11: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou I feel like I've dropped the ball -- too much stuff to do, and something had to go, so I never got beyond the first chapter. Sorry to leave you hanging! When the time comes that I can get back to it, I'll look forward to coming back here and reading your comments.


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