Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James Analysis

Mr. Abney was found in his chair, his head thrown back, his face stamped with an expression of rage, fright and mortal pain. On his left side was a terrible lacerated wound, exposing the heart. There was no blood on his hands, and a long knife that lay on the table was perfectly clean. A savage wild-cat might have inflicted the injuries. The window of the study was open, and it was the opinion of the coroner that Mr. Abney had met his death by the agency of some wild creature. But Stephen Elliot’s study of the papers I have quoted led him to a very different conclusion.
‘Lost Hearts, is a lesser tale that is not a typical one from M.R. James. The tale kicks off with an old country house being described. This country house is named Answarby Hall in Lincolnshire. We see a young boy called Stephen Elliot traveling towards the house. The boy is orphaned and has just been offered a home by Mr. Abney, his older cousin. This is a surprise as My Abney is known to be a Pagan and a Professor of Greek at Cambridge University. He has no interest in the children. This situation presents an irony. On welcoming the boy, Abney asks about his age twice in a span of a few minutes. This leaves both Stephen and the readers perturbed as to whether it is eccentricity. On settling, Steven questions the workers in the house about Mr. Abney (James 14). The two servants, Mr. Parkes and Mr. Bunch, tell Steven of how kind the professor is, even giving him an example of the other two children that he had earlier befriended.

In this story, M.R. James presents a more horrifying story, different from the works we are used to. However, he maintains similar themes which include ideas of guilt and obsession, the scholar at the story’s heart, musty setting that is very remote, elements of supernaturalism and an interface characterized by arcane mysteries. However, the sense of dread and menace seems to be slightly lost. The story presents a child as the protagonist. This fact seems to influence the performance of the dread feelings and trepidation as it is in contrast with an adult character. The story, however, maintains its dramatic nature, more often than not presenting shocking revelations.

Lost Hearts is much shorter compared to other stories by James, and it lacks the usual donnish cheer and digressions. The story is characterized by mysteries after mysteries. For instance, Stephen has a lot of nightmares of a girl who is dead in the bath. There are scratches appearing on the door of his bedroom, and when he sleeps, something keeps on shredding his shirt. Abney himself looks to be friendly. This is deceptive as we later come to discover that there are a lot of evils hidden after his failed experiments. The story is, however, refreshing as it tries to bring out something different. The ghosts are very scary but seem to seek revenge for some wrong that was done to them. This vindicates them.

The conclusion of the story is rather glorious. This end was foreshadowed earlier in the story but still sends a chill down the readers’ spines. There is the climax that features voices that are devilish, scary ghostly children and offers a chilling effect to the readers. The end part is even more intriguing than the other parts. The film’s finale is based on the fateful midnight meeting. There is imagery presented that is very unsettling. The midnight meeting is fateful and dangerous to Stephen. The end part of the story contains a lot of vivid description and a lot of suspense. Stephen walks into the room and finds Mr. Abney’s heart ripped off from his chest by what seems to be a wild creature. From the attack, there is a disclosure of Mr. Abney’s book that chronicled his occult experiments (23). This is a tragedy that is very ironical. The book on the table contained the plans that Mr. Abney had. He thought he would gain supernatural powers through removing the hearts of the three children, burning the hearts to ashes and drinking the ash in wine. Mr. Abney had already killed two of the children and hid their bodies in the wine cellar and the unused bathroom. Stephen Elliott was supposed to be the last child. The style used in writing the story presents a master class presentation which is meant for performance.

 

Works Cited
James, M. Collected Ghost Stories. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

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