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How do Jacobs and Dickens create a foreboding atmosphere and build up tension in 'The Monkey's Paw' and 'The Signalman'?

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Introduction

How do Jacobs and Dickens create a foreboding atmosphere and build up tension in 'The Monkey's Paw' and 'The Signalman'? The main idea of a mystery story is to give the readers something to wonder about. You have to give them the clues one by one and lead your reader to a conclusion they weren't expecting. A good mystery story will keep a reader guessing until they see the final twist and then everything they didn't understand before fits into place. This is definitely true in 'The Signalman'. One of the techniques that Dickens uses to create a feeling of uneasiness and tension can be seen right from the very beginning. In the very first paragraph there is a sense of the unexplained: 'There was something remarkable in his manner of doing so (instead of the signalman looking up to where the narrator stood, he turned himself about, and looked down the Line.), though I could not have said for my life, what.' The vocabulary Dickens uses also adds to the atmosphere and it is well worth a close look at this. Words such as 'violent', 'clammier' and 'earthly dead smell' build up the sense that the narrator is in a dangerous location and that something terrible is about to happen. ...read more.

Middle

The third evening concludes the story. The narrator sees the figure waving in the mouth of the tunnel, but it is not supernatural: 'The nameless horror that oppressed me, passed in a moment, for in a moment I saw that this appearance of a man was a man indeed.' The way Dickens talks directly to the audience in this story, is a good way of fully involving the reader in the mystery. It raises questions that he then leaves unanswered and unravels later. The death was that of the signalman himself, and the visions he had seen had been the premonition of his own death. There is the repetition of the action and also of the words that the signalman said were haunting him. 'The Monkey's Paw' is based upon the unexpected happenings of a supernatural tale. Mr. White meets up with an old war buddy and invites him to his home for an evening visit. The purpose is to complete a story he had told of a monkey's paw and an old fakir. Sergeant-Major Morris has brought the paw with him and tells the story. At the beginning of the story, the mood is mysterious and ominous, created by these details: a cold, wet night; a house in an out-of-the-way place; a visitor tells of faraway places and strange events. ...read more.

Conclusion

The reader is wondering as well: Will she see her son? What will happen to her? What kind of family will they be with a dead son returned from the grave? The word 'it' implies that Mr. White believes whatever is on the other side of the door is NOT human. He believes perhaps 'it' is his son's dead corpse. The word 'it' creates suspense and a sense of fear. The husband at last makes the final and inevitable wish -the only sensible wish made while the paw was theirs those brief fateful days. And the story ends with an eerie image complete with a poignant sound effect that sends a final frisson up your spine: 'A cold wind rushed up the staircase and a long loud wail of disappointment and misery from his wife gave him courage to run down to her side, and to the gate beyond. The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road.' It is certain that the echo of that misery-filled wail reached all the way to the cemetery where no doubt it settled like a mournful shroud on the still undisturbed grave of their hapless son. Wong Hui Chyn 11I English coursework ...read more.

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