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Pre-1914 Short Stories

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I have studied three short stories during this half-term period. The three stories are "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens; "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs and "The Withered Arm" by Thomas Hardy. These writers create a sense of suspense and atmosphere through using a variety of techniques, one of which is their description of settings. They also use narrative hooks to draw the readers in and atmosphere and suspense are developed through the way the stories are narrated. All three writers develop atmosphere and suspense through their word choices. Settings are vital to a good story which helps to create a certain atmosphere. "The Signalman" is set in a deep narrow passage made through a hill for the railway. Charles Dickens attempts to create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense by saying that signalman's "post was in as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw". The word "solitary" and "dismal" are used to describe the cutting of the railway. This means the cutting is very isolated and gloomy. With the company of "gloomy red light", this gives us an idea that the place is very dark and creepy where accidents happen strangely. ...read more.


One of the techniques used by the writers is narrative hooks. In "The Monkey's Paw", it describes Mr. White as he "Frantically breathed his third and last wish". From this quotation, we know that Mr. White took his last wish but we do not know what he wished for. Did he wish his son to be dead, or not disturbing him forever? Readers want to find out what Mr. White wished for. Jacobs draws the readers in and keeps them in suspense. Similarly, in "The Signalman", Dickens describes the Signalman saying "What does the spectre mean?" In this quotation, we understand that the signalman wasn't sure if the "spectre" is giving him a signal that something ominous will happen or, scare him off? Readers are anxious to find out the answer as they want to know the symbolization of the "spectre". Dickens keeps them in tension. In "The Withered Arm", one of the milkmaids says, "He do bring home his bride tomorrow. I hear". Milkmaids are gossiping that a man is going to bring home his bride the day after. This interests the readers as they might want to find out who "he" is and the "bride". ...read more.


In "The Monkey's Paw", it was written in a period which people are obsessed by magic that can make something surreal happen in reality. Characters in "The Monkey's Paw" believe in magic which can turn their life better. This creates an atmosphere as if magic exists at that time that they can really deal with magic. This creates a sense of mystery. In the "The Withered Arm", it was written in a period where milkmaids still need to squeeze milk from the cow. Normally, it is done by machine now. This creates an atmosphere that milkmaids space to gossip about others affairs and they are interested on it. A false sense of security is set up where something menacing happen at this particular time. In these three stories, Dickens, Jacobs and Hardy create suspense by locating stories in an isolated setting which is far from the small community leaving characters hardly get any help from the outside world. Through using the narrative hooks, readers are drawn in as they want to find out what happen and engage the readers to the stories. Each pieces of information are given out each time to create a certain atmosphere and suspense. All in all, a sense of mystery is added to the stories which build up atmosphere and suspense. ...read more.

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