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The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs, "The Clubfooted Grocer" by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle, "The Red Room" by H. G. Wells and "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens

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Introduction

Analyse how the writers successfully use aspects of the supernatural to create dramatic tension in the short stories you have read. The nineteenth century was an era of general belief in ghosts and spirituality. This is what made gothic stories even more appealing and successful during this era - the fact that they would be seen as being realistic. One major reason for the rise in spirituality during this era was the fact that many people had started to lose their Christian faith (mainly because the Church was unable to give an explanation as to why ghosts existed) and so they started to search for a new way of understanding and accepting death. I think that the Victorian's enjoyed reading horror stories because they offer a challenge - to see whether the reader can figure out who the "ghost" or spectre represents and what they are doing. By involving the reader, the writers were able to keep them interested throughout the story. During the Victorian era, the short story became a very popular genre and ghost stories were well-liked with the readers. It was therefore very important for the authors to build tension and suspense to keep their readers interested. I will be studying: "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs, "The Clubfooted Grocer" by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle, "The Red Room" by H. G. Wells and "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens. In this essay, I will be exploring the ways in which the writers use the supernatural to create dramatic tension in the above stories. "The Monkey's Paw" is a short story by W. W. Jacobs, written in 1902. The title of a story is very important because it is the title which grabs the reader's attention and so, if it is not effective, people will not want to read the story. The title of this story immediately grabs the reader's attention because it is mysterious and it makes us wonder what it is and what it can do. ...read more.

Middle

He takes his revolver out and this shows that he believes that there is something which can harm him. Wells uses typical ghost story effects, such as creaking doors, "The door creaked on its hinges". This emphasizes the fact that the house is old and also, the fact that no body goes to this place that much. This makes the reader think about why no one goes into the room - is there really something in there? When the first candle goes out unexpectedly, Wells personifies the shadows created as though they were about "to take another step towards" him. The shadows are described in this way to make them seem real and alive. He uses all reasoning available to find out why the candles were going out and reaches the conclusion that it's the draught. As another two candles extinguished he says, "Odd! Did I do that myself?" The aspect of fear starts building up in him as he realises that the wick of the extinguished candles weren't glowing nor were they giving off smoke. He says that the candles were going out as though an "invincible hand" had swept them out again with no trace of what actually put them out. The use of the word, "invincible" shows that the narrator must be starting to feel the tension. A lot of personification is used to describe the darkness, for example, "the shutting of any eye, wrapped about me in a stifling embrace, sealed my vision, and crushed the last vestiges of reason from my brain" and "flames were still dancing". These help us to visualize the darkness and the shadows which were created. He uses words to such as, "haunted", "chilly", "echoing", "shadow" and "darkness" to show the fear which is present in the narrator. Wells uses similes and metaphors to further emphasize the atmosphere of fear throughout the story. For example, he says, "ocean of mystery" and "like a ragged storm cloud sweeping out the stars." ...read more.

Conclusion

The strange behaviour of the Signalman helps to convey a feeling of suspense and tension. Dickens' use of detail, whilst describing the characters, and loneliness of the railway line adds to the feeling of dread and foreboding which is built up throughout the story. The man is clearly distressed by the apparitions and the disasters, as the narrator says, "When I saw him in this state." The Signalman's mental health is evidently being affected by the Apparitions and the narrator wants to help him as much as he can. Throughout the story, Dickens gradually builds up the suspense which is similar to the effect used in "The Red Room". This keeps the readers on the edge of their seats until the very end of the story when the story reaches a climax and the Signalman is dead. "The Monkey's Paw" and "The Signalman" are completely different stories however they share a common theme, the fear of the unknown. Both of these stories leave unanswered questions which build up suspense. This is an excellent way of keeping readers thinking about a story even after it has finished. My favourite story has to be "The Signalman" because there is a lot of mystery present throughout the story. The strangest thing is the fact that the Signalman himself is an educated man, yet he sees strange, unexplainable Apparitions which eventually lead to his death. Overall, I believe that these short stories are effective in entertaining the reader and keeping them interested throughout the story. The writers use many different techniques such as personification, metaphors, similes and imagery to create vivid images throughout the stories. The best technique used is when there are many questions which are left unanswered at the end of the story. This makes the readers create their own conclusions about the reasons as to why certain events occurred. Also, the use of the first person narrative is effective in ghost stories because they give a clear view of what happens and how the narrator feels. ...read more.

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