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Gothic essay, monkey's paw

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How do the writers create atmosphere and build tension in the three Victorian short stories? WW Jacobs, Charles Dickens and HG Wells all use sophisticated techniques to create atmosphere and build tension in their gothic short stories. In this essay I shall be comparing and analysing three short stories, one from each author. 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens is a tale of a signalman haunted by a spectre on the line. The mysterious story filled with fear and foreboding results in the death of this troubled character. 'The Monkey's Paw' written by WW Jacobs is a magnificent story that is shadowed with superstition and tragedy, a tale of a cursed charm that brings sorrow to a somewhat content family. Finally, 'The Red Room' by HG Wells revolves around fear and mystery, bringing light on a haunted castle. All of the above stories succeed through the important use of atmosphere and tension, keeping the reader hooked until the end. The social and historical context in all three stories I am analysing, is made clear through traditional language and references to popular ideas of the time. The gothic theme of the stories relates to the Victorian time at which they were all written. 'The Signalman' includes themes of death, danger and the supernatural, common to the gothic genre, illuminating the superstitious society of the Victorian era. Combing the theme of 'spectres' with the new and mysterious invention of the time, trains, Dickens creates an eerie atmosphere throughout the short story. WW Jacobs uses similar aspects of the gothic era to create atmosphere and build tension within his dramatic mystery, 'The Monkey's Paw'. Superstition plays an important role in this tale, reflecting the historical background of the short story. ...read more.


The other characters in Wells' short story also contribute to the atmosphere and tension created, predominately at the beginning. These 'old' and 'withered' characters add to the story's gothic atmosphere through their emaciated like description; " ...Second old man entered, more bend, more wrinkled, More aged even than the first. ...And his lower lip, half Averted, hung pale and pink from his decaying teeth." The vivid description of this particular character enhances the sinister atmosphere of the already recognisably gothic story. The language that all three authors use in their Victorian short stories is that which skilfully and subtly creates tension and atmosphere, keeping a constant level of suspense when needed and also maximizing this anticipation in other parts. The devices they use to create this effect are varied, from traditional poetic imagery devices such as metaphors and similes through to pathetic fallacy and vocabulary that the authors use. Examples of these techniques are found in all three stories, with some using more of one technique than others. In 'The Monkey's Paw', WW Jacobs frequently uses typical Victorian language, for example; 'fakir' and 'talisman', words commonly used and associated with the gothic era. This use of vocabulary helps to create the gothic, intriguing atmosphere of Jacobs' short story. Jacobs also uses a variation of sentence types, to keep the reader in suspense and to vary the structure of the story. H G Wells uses imagery to great effect in his short story, 'The Red Room', this technique aids Wells to create a certain atmosphere and to sustain or create suspense. Wells on various occasion uses imagery such as metaphor and simile to describe the vast darkness the narrator is experiencing; the following simile is an example of this; "...Closed upon me like the ...read more.


Another example of this device is found within the dialect of the hosts. Wells' uses repetition of certain speech from these 'withered' characters to foreshadow the terror that awaits the narrator; "It is your own choosing", said the man with the withered arm..." This line is repeated a total of four times before the narrator sets of on his journey through the castle, as is the line; "This night of all nights" These two repeated lines suggest that these characters are wary of what will happen to the narrator on his quest, this foreshadows the horror that lies dormant in the narrator until he enters the 'red room', creating suspense for the reader. The plot and structure of these three short stories is another element that adds to the atmosphere and also helps create and maintain suspense, throughout the stories. The exciting, horrific and appealing plots of these Victorian short stories adds to their tension due to the audience becoming enthralled with the stories and their characters, wanting to know their fate whether it be good or bad. To conclude, all three of the Victorian short stories, written in the gothic style, that I have been analysing have shown great technique through and through. I have thoroughly enjoyed studying the various techniques the authors have used to create atmosphere and build tension within their short stories, from the language they have used through to vast contrasts. All these devices have proved more than successful for Dickens, Wells and Jacobs as I am sure they have for many authors of their time and authors writing their first few narratives today. These techniques, I believe, will be used for generations to come, across different genres to succeed in creating atmosphere and building tension within stories enjoyed by many. Alice Roberson English Coursework ...read more.

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