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The Monkey's Paw by W.W.Jacobs and The Signalman by Charles Dickens - How do the two stories build up an atmosphere of tension and suspense? Which is the most effective?

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Introduction

The Monkey's Paw by W.W.Jacobs The Signalman by Charles Dickens How do the two stories build up an atmosphere of tension and suspense? Which is the most effective? In the 19th Century a new genre of book was introduced, this genre was known as short spooky stories. They were often published in magazines and short collections at the time. These stories used many techniques to help built up and keep the atmosphere of tension and suspense, two examples of these stories are The Signalman by Charles Dickens and The Monkey's Paw by W.W.Jacobs. These stories are written to involve the reader in the paranormal and unnatural. Similar stories all used tension, and had a final twist in the ending to scare and capture the reader. The Signalman was written in 1865, Steam trains were a very recent invention, and would have seemed very modern. From the very beginning, a suggestion that all is not right, the narrator makes his way down to the railway he feels as if he 'had left the natural world'. The reader can imagine for himself or herself the way the mind could play tricks on anyone there. The introduction then merges into the sense sight. ...read more.

Middle

In both stories isolation is a common factor - the signalman works alone at his post, and the White's house is a long way from anywhere. This feeling of isolation makes the characters seem even more helpless and extraordinary. These contrasts give some variety to the story, and also lull the reader into a sense of security before the real twist in the tale strikes. It is the calm before the storm. There are only two main characters in The Signalman. The first his character is introduced as a strange and troubled one. When the narrator shouts 'Halloa! Below there!' instead of replying to him, he 'turned himself about, and looked down at the line'. This mysterious behaviour is later explained as the signalman's wariness of the visions, which haunt him. His physical appearance also adds to the eerie atmosphere. He is described as dark, sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows...fixed "eyes ...saturnine face" This description of the signalman is very similar to a ghostly like face, which again adds to the spine-chilling atmosphere, because he has this particular look. Also the language and expression used to describe the signalman's actions and behaviour add to this mysterious tone. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think this was because the Monkey's paw was easier to follow, and had a clearer storyline. The old idea of three wishes was used very well to make a persuasive and frightening story. The characters in The Monkey's Paw were more colourful than in The Signalman, particularly frivolous Herbert and hysterical Mrs. White. I found that I also felt more sympathy for the Whites; that their only son and light in their life should die as a result of a wish made by them was very sad, but was ale to be brought back for them to see in a horrendous wish made by Mrs White. The Monkey's paw was also more successful at being a supernatural horror story. If the two stories were to be turned into a film or a play, The Monkey's Paw would be more terrifying because of the grisly idea of their son returning to see them from his grave, all crushed and gory from being caught in the machinery. However, in The Signalman there are many pieces of very successful imagery, such as the 'frozen finger tracing out my spine'. This is a quote that you could imagine being put into a horror story as it is one thing that can make people cringe and shiver, the thought of a cold, icy finger being run down their spine! ...read more.

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