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"The Signalman", "The Red Room" and "The Man with the Twisted Lip"

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"The Signalman", "The Red Room" and "The Man with the Twisted Lip" "How do Dickens, Wells and Doyle create tension and suspense in The Signalman, The Red Room and The Man with the Twisted Lip respectively?" It is obvious that these tales were written in the mid nineteenth century because the style of writing is very different to the more modern techniques writers employ today. In these stories, we are told about objects which no longer have a place in modern society, such as 'the telegraph' and the 'steam train'. Therefore it was necessary to look more closely at the scripts to identify how the authors create a sense of mystery. These are three very different mystery stories, all of which are trying to keep the reader gripped until the ending. In these three tales suspense and tension are emphasised greatly and are conducted through the use of structure, setting, atmosphere, language and imagery. Whether or not these techniques are successful is a different story, but definitely pose as a solution for the ending of each story. Some investigation on the historical, social and literary background can help to show why each writer made his particular choice of setting. The stories, "The Red Room" written by H.G Wells, "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens and "The Man with the Twisted Lip" by Conan Doyle were all written in the Victorian era. At that time, the short story was a popular genre as a form of entertainment. Ghost stories and thrillers were particularly popular with the Victorian readers, therefore it was essential for the authors to build tension and suspense to keep the readers interest. The supernatural element reflects the Victorian fascination with the paranormal as a reaction against the rapid advances in science and technology during the 19th century that seemed to deny the existence of a spiritual dimension to life. The stories are true mysteries and can have no solutions as there are about the impossibility of ever knowing what is real. ...read more.


It makes you wonder why he is doing that. Repetition also builds up the tension for example; "I am troubled... I am troubled". Dickens then winds up the tension when he says that he feels that the "feeling is passed on" to him in a "supernatural way", that seems it is a good sign, that the narrator is beginning to understand what the signalman feels. Tension is builds up when he says "he would walk for an hour, half an hour doing down, the other back" then he will go to his "signalman's box". That made it more personal. All kinds of questions are asked in your head, so you want answers very quickly therefore it drove me to read on and that's what I like in terms of tension. "The Red Room" is in "Loraine Castle" which is dark and isolated. The spiral staircases, large windows, long corridors, door covered in baize and statues makes the place more dangerous and no one can help if someone is in trouble. Spiral staircases shows that they would not know what is coming round the corner. Long corridors and a door covered with baize shows that sound cannot travel a lot, so there is no escape. In Wells' story I like the idea of the spiral staircases that keeps you in suspense; therefore you do not know what will happen. In "The Red Room" there are two pervious stories about staying in 'The Red Room'. The first story is that a young duke stayed in the room then came out running, opened the door and "fallen headlong" down the stairs. It happens because he wants to conquer the "ghostly tradition" of the palace. The second story is that a "timid" wife who her husband scared her to death, just for fun. H.G. Wells thinks that it is "half-credible". In this story there is no ghost, but Wells gives it away when he says it in the end. ...read more.


All these tales are first person narratives which means they can share senses and feeling. The sense of what is hot and cold was also used effectively in these three tales and gives the reader a sense of the thermal images. An example of this from "The Red Room" is "walked down the chilly, echoing passage". We always associate ominous and eerie moments with coldness. The use of smells are employed a lot in "The Man with the Twisted Lip" especially when describing the opium den and makes the text that little bit more interesting which keeps the reader continuing. "The Man with the Twisted Lip" has a writing style is very effective but differs quite strongly to the other two stories even though most of the writers focus their climax on more suspense rather than action. The main reason being the long talking periods in "The Man with the Twisted Lip", which do build suspense, but the other tales spend more time with narration, this can give the character more depth, but can make the story seem a little sparse or sterile, and as it is a short story, this doesn't happen. I prefer 'The Signalman' story because I like stories with a mysterious ending to them or any mystery in the story itself. Just like in the beginning of "The Signalman", the signalman thinks the narrator is a ghost and the narrator thinks that the signalman is a ghost too. It is like you don't know who to trust anymore and what is right or wrong. Not like in "The Red Room" when the three old people stayed together when the hero went out of the room, looking at him at an eerie way. At that time you know that what the hero did was wrong and something bad is going to happen to him. "The Man with the Twisted Lip" captured this aspect also, but not as well as "The Signalman". I mostly like it when I do not know anything or what will happen and especially keeps me in suspense. ...read more.

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