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Discuss how writers build tension & convey atmosphere.

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Introduction

Discuss how writers build tension & convey atmosphere To investigate tension and atmosphere, I have looked at three pre1900 pieces- 'The Red Room' H.G.Wells, 'The Signalman,' Charles Dickens, & 'A Withered Arm' Thomas Hardy. They use a variety of different techniques, each with their own individual style but achieving the same overall effect. They focus on setting, description of characters & use of language. The Red Room is a tale of a man on a quest to discover the truth about the legend of 'The Red Room' in Lorraine Castle, as the young man's fate unfolds the audience are led with him, they feel his fear, hear his thoughts and experience his terror. 'The Red Room' has such a mystery behind it, fear itself nearly leads him to his death. A tale that lacks warmth and everything about it instils terror. The title of the story has a suggestive air, the word red makes the audience think of blood, danger, and death, in 'The Signal Man,' red is also the main focus colour for the same reasons but this time in the form of the danger light in the mouth of the tunnel. H.G. Wells writes in the first person so the audience can follow what is happening and believe they are there, 'I have lived...' The opening line sets the tone of the story, and the audience is filled with anticipation. The narrator is very confident, which is displayed almost immediately 'I can assure you, it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me.' ...read more.

Middle

and that they are in Loraine Castle, 'the great red room of Lorraine Castle' Great has a majestic air, it has a respect born through fear. Even though his growing fear is plainly evident he still attempts to be confident, continuing to sneer at the legends of the past, doubting their validity, this happens also in 'The Signal Man', the narrator in this to, questions the validity of the misfortuned signal man's visions, 'superstition... half-credible beginning of it all' and in 'The Signal Man' 'it was the mental torture... how your imagination misleads you.' The narrator thus proceeds to check the room for any secret passages therefore squelching any ideas that there could be another explanation for some of the things happening in the Red Room itself. This also gives a time to describe the room in all its glory and detail, 'wide chimney... dark oak panelling... two big mirrors... sombre red sand blacks' and so forth. He conducts his search very thoroughly. The fact he felt it necessary to barricade himself in and bring his gun increased tension through the ever growing anticipation. He is unnerved; 'jumpy', he, obviously is very anxious and finds comfort in not staying still, so the audience stay the same. They are not led into a false security, therefore the atmosphere does not diminish in the slightest, nor does it have chance to linger or grow stale. This and the descriptions keeps the story alive, as darkness is something we can all relate to, especially the feeling of it, and impenetrable silence closing in, 'darkness closed upon me like the shutting of an eye... ...read more.

Conclusion

It takes merely a few sentences after we discover the signalman's death before the story ends. The outcome is horrific, therefore the audience are shocked as this is an unexpected twist to the tale. The way he is killed is eerie and disturbing, the narrator's overwhelming feelings, move the audience with the same correlating effect 'nameless horror that oppressed me'. Even the fact that, as the narrator approached the railway before he knew of the man's death, he was so adamant that it was an illusion of his overworked mind that he had decided to ask the signalman to go to a doctor with him, 'to the wisest medical practitioner', this makes the signal man's death all the more unexpected, that it was 'a lovely evening' and the irony that he made his journey longer so he could enjoy it more. Therefore this raises questions in the audiences mind, if only he had gone straight there, he may of saved the poor man's life, if only, he had believed him. Finally, that it now looked incredibly doubtful that it was coincidence what the signalman had 'imagined', the words, gesture and even the appearance of the train driver that had 'cut him down'. Pity is also a great factor in the conclusion; it makes the story have a more memorable and sad atmosphere. Finally the way that the narrator, whom had written the story after it had happened, finished of by giving the audience yet more to think about, reminding us of its obscurities, unbelievable coincidences and in turn reinforcing the mournful atmosphere. '... close at the mouth of the tunnel, I saw the appearance of a man, with his left sleeve across his eyes, passionately waving his right arm.' ...read more.

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