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How is tension and suspense built up in 'The Monkey's Paw' & 'The Signalman?'

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Pre-1914 Prose How is tension and suspense built up in 'The Monkey's Paw' & 'The Signalman?' 'The Monkey's Paw' is a horror story with action, tension, suspense and a mysterious death. The whole story takes place in one house. T he story was written in the nineteenth century. It's about a monkey's paw that grants three wishes. However every wish has consequences. In the first paragraph the scene is set and there is a contrast in the way the outside and inside are described. "Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of laburnum villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly" The conditions outside are typical of a horror setting "The night was cold and wet" This creates an unpleasant atmosphere. The characters are inside with the blinds drawn and seem separated from the outside with a burning fire. This creates a clam mood, the total opposite to outside. There seems to be no danger within the house but the reader knows something is going to go wrong. ...read more.


This is also a warning to Mr White. When morning comes the tension disappears as if the light saves them from the night this causes the tension to fade. "In the brightness of the wintry sun next morning as it streamed over the table, he laughed at his fears." The light seems to bring order and calmness to the house and drives away the fear. The visitor gives the reader a suspicious feeling. "She was watching the mysterious movement of a man outside, who, peering in an undecided fashion at the house appeared to be trying to make up his mind to enter .... She noticed that the stranger was well dressed, and wore a silk hat of glossy newness" Suspense is built because the reader doesn't know who it is. "Three times he passed the gate, and walked on again. The forth time he stood with his hand upon it" No one knows who it is this builds tension because he is acting in a strange manner and it builds suspense because you don't know who it is. ...read more.


A vivid image of Herbert walking home springs to the readers mind as it was said earlier in the story. "The Whites buried their son to miles away" The father rushes to find the paw as he realised the horrific act he has just committed. "Her husband was on his hands and knees groping wildly on the floor in search of the paw." While his wife is trying to let Herbert in. "The bolt and she cried loudly I can't reach it" There is a sudden contrast, before the story plodded along but now the story is full of action the husband is looking for the paw. The wife is trying to open the door and all the time the corpse is knocking on the door. "A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house." This is a frantic scene where tension and suspense is built up for the final time. The husband finds the paw and wishes Hebert back to the graveyard using the third and final wish. "The knocking ceases suddenly" This story provides an effective use of vocabulary to create and build suspense and tension but it leaves the reader wondering what may happen to the monkey's paw in the future. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

The title as it stands is problematic as the essay only deals with one story. If this were the question set in an exam it would not pass and would be two stars.

However, if the question is only about 'The Monkey's Paw' it is a four star essay!

The essay deals with the writer's use of character, peaks and troughs in tension, imagery and includes apt quotation throughout.
Improvement needed would be analysis of symbolism related to the warning/moral the story presents. Also some analysis of sentence structure and its use to create tension is required.

Marked by teacher Elaine Prentice 17/10/2013

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