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In this essay, the openings of the four short stories, "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens, "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe, "The Landlady" by Roald Dahl and "All But Empty" by Graham Greene will be considered.

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Comparison of four short horror stories In this essay, the openings of the four short stories, "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens, "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe, "The Landlady" by Roald Dahl and "All But Empty" by Graham Greene will be considered and a decision made as to which one creates an atmosphere of mystery and unease most effectively. "The Signalman" tells the story of a man (the signalman), who spends all day, every day sat in his box down by a tunnel in a cutting that is situated in the middle of nowhere. He spends so long there, in fact, that he begins to lose his mind and witness tings that aren't happening... In "The Tell-Tale Heart", the story of a man is told. However, this man is out to get revenge on an evil eye. The eye, though, belongs to a man who must be killed. A mysterious tale is told in "The Landlady", where a young man, Billy Weaver, goes to stay at a Bed and Breakfast style hotel, only to discover that his landlady, a weak, old lady has had only a few guests stay with her before and they are on the floor above. Stuffed. Graham Greene's "All But Empty" tells of a man who visits a 1930's cinema even though it is derelict and unused. He meets a strange visitor in there one cold, wet day... "The Signalman" has several features in it's opening which make it stand out. The fact that the cutting is situated in the countryside is significant as it adds the feeling of loneliness and also emphasises the point that if something bad was to happen, there would be no one around to help. When the writer states that to get down into the cutting the reader must go down a zigzag path, this is the stress how difficult it is to get down, therefore showing that hardly anyone will bother going down, making the reader realise how lonely it must feel to spend all of your time down there. ...read more.


It is very significant that the cinema is empty as it adds a sense of loneliness and naivety to the situation, the fact that the main character has no help if anything bad was to happen. The way that Graham Greene makes sure to say that the weather outside is bad is important as it means that the streets will be practically deserted as everyone stays inside, therefore leaving the character alone. Overall, I feel that the setting in which the story of "The Landlady" is located is the most effective as it makes the reader feel lots of emotions in the space of a few paragraphs. For example, at the beginning of the opening, the reader is told about the dark, cold streets of Bath and how empty they are. Also, the tall houses each side of the road and the fact that there are no shops in sight create a great sense of loneliness and dullness. The next paragraph, however, makes a completely opposite atmosphere, describing the warm, cosy, light boarding house. The reader is pulled into how nice and inviting this house sounds, and it makes the reader feel happier inside even though they know that something bad is bound to happen sooner or later. Compared to the setting of "The Signalman" which is straight forward and somewhat 'one dimensional' and the openings of "All But Empty" and "The Landlady", which, although completely different in writing style, do not add an atmosphere as well as the opening to "The Landlady", which has a setting which must make the reader feel most uncomfortable, though, intrigued at the same time. In "The Signalman", there are several questions raised, such as "Why does the signalman not look at the writer when he shouts 'Halloa! Below there!'? This is interesting, as it seems that the signalman has a lot more important things on his mind, which also links to the questions, "Why does the signalman keep staring at the red warning light even thought it is not lit up?" ...read more.


The fact that there is absolute silence and absolute pitch black darkness can make the reader feel very unsure about the situation and it also emphasizes how delicately the killer had planned and was executing his attack. The style of writing is an extremely valuable tool for creating a mood and atmosphere in a story. The signalman, written by Charles Dickens, uses the style of a 1st person perspective, as does The Tell-Tale Heart, written by Edgar Allen Poe. They have used this style, as it is the most formal of all the styles that have been used. It also sounds a little like a diary in some cases, such as in The Tell-Tale Heart", where it has been used to great effect. This makes the writer sound as though he has been plotting his attack for an extremely long time and also adds to the tension and atmosphere off the story. Poe has also used a lot of short words and sentences, adding exclamations for greater emphasis. The Landlady is written in a more informal way, using slang and dialect words to create a better atmosphere for the reader to understand. It tells the story of Billy Weaver in a way that makes the writer seem as if he has spoken to the character, not as if the writer has invented the character. This also helps engross the reader as it makes the story sound more believable. As a conclusion to this essay, I feel that the most effective opening belongs to "The Landlady" by Roald Dahl. This is as a result of it always keeping the reader on the edge of their seats with changes in the mood, setting and atmosphere. I also feel that it describes the situation of the story better than the other three, helping the reader to get more involved. The introduction of the victim, Billy Weaver, early on, helps the reader to feel closer to the character as the story goes on and therefore the reader will inevitably feel more emotion at the end of the story as well. ...read more.

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