What are the similarities and differences between the narrators of M. R. James's two short stories "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You My Lad" and "Count Magnus" and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's short...

What are the similarities and differences between the narrators of M. R. James's two short stories "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You My Lad" and "Count Magnus" and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's short story "Schalken the Painter"?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One similarity between the narrator in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's short story "Schalken the Painter" and the narrator in M. R. James's short story "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" concerns the fact that both are third-person limited narrators. The narration of Le Fanu's short story is limited to describing the actions from the perspective of the protagonist Schalken, while James's short story is limited to describing the actions from the point of view of the protagonist Professor Parkins.

A second similarity concerns the narrator's use of foreshadowing. Both narrators foreshadow doom within the very first paragraphs of their stories. In Le Fanu's opening paragraph, a description of a painting done by Schalken containing the figure of a woman dressed all in white and of a man looking alarmed and ready to draw his sword foreshadows all future events pertaining to Rose. In James's opening dialogue, the comment made by Rogers ("I thought I should do so nicely to keep the ghosts off"), whom the narrator identifies as a character not really belonging to the story, clearly foreshadows Parkins's upcoming ghostly experience.

A difference between the two narrators concerns the fact that in James's story, the reader gets to witness all of the action unfold, including Parkins's supernatural encounter. In contrast, in Le Fanu's story, Rose is the true victim of the story, but the narrator only remains with Schalken. So, both Schalken and the reader are left to speculate about what could have possibly happened to Rose in her marriage to Minheer Wilken Vanderhausen of Rotterdam.

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