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This essay will compare and contrast the settings which the writers have chosen for their stories in 'The Signalman', 'The Man With the Twisted Lip' and 'The Red Room'.

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11 March 2003 Setting and atmosphere in three Victorian stories This essay will compare and contrast the settings which the writers have chosen for their stories in 'The Signalman', 'The Man With the Twisted Lip' and 'The Red Room'. In 'The Signalman', the narrator as he decends into a railway track, becomes involved in a complex and confounding situation. The reader is gripped in suspense following the plot which involves the signalman being haunted by a ghost, and with each time the ghost appeared, death follows. The story concludes with the death of the signalman himself, indicating that the appearance of the ghost was an omen of his approaching demise. 'The Man With the Twisted Lip' sees Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson absorbed in a perplexing and singular case involving a woman and her missing husband. It began as she walked down a street looked up at a window and saw her husband who shrieked and went immediately out of sight. When she and the police went up to the room where he was last seen, they could not find him. Instead they encountered a scary, distrustful beggar with a horribly distorted face. The reader feels the tension building as the detectives try to solve this unnerving case and there is a sigh of relief when the case is solved. The solution is however an unusual one, and to some extent, quite amusing. Conan Doyle has done this to release the uneasyness and tension built up in the reader. Whilst the narrator in 'The Red Room', presuming himself unafraid of any type of ghost or the supernatural, becomes overwhelmed by fear in the sinister and menacing atmosphere of the Red Room, a fear which disturbs the reader. His experience in the room keeps the reader in suspense as the numerous candles which he had lighted goes out one by one. All three stories are written during the reign of Queen Victoria. ...read more.


Dickens used an oxymoron in 'gloomy red light' - 'red' and 'light' are usually bright and vibrant colours and to be described as 'gloomy' creates an omnious and depressing mood. This is built up in 'the gloomier entrance to a black tunnel'. Oppressive imagery is introduced in 'a barbarous, depressing and forbidding air'. The fact that the air was being personified in this way is so that Dickens could make a more realistic impact on the reader and that the atmosphere is more frightening and menacing. There is also 'so little sunlight' that 'it had an earthly, deadly smell'. This is further usage of light/darkness and senses. Dickens use the words 'earthly' and 'deadly' because it is linked with death and decay, giving a repugnant atmosphere. The narrator then feels the 'cold wind rushed through, that it struck chill to me'. Again, because it is in first person narrative, it is as if we could also feel the cold wind rushed through and that it has also struck a chill to us. Because of the spookyness of the railway, the narrator felt ' as if I had left the natural world', the similie used here helps to convey that supernatural forces have power over the setting. The signalbox was described as 'a lonesome post' giving a full extent of how isolated the place was. 'The Man With the Twisted Lip', unlike 'The Signalman' has a clear and identifiable geography of where the place is. Conan Doyle had choosen his setting in 'Upper Swandam Lane', which is described as 'a vile alley lurking behind the high wharves'. Already a negative and repugnant atmosphere is conveyed and there is something of a sinister nature in the way the alley is 'lurking behind'. There is 'a steep flight of steps leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave' which introduces an element of descent to a significant place. ...read more.


Unlike 'The Man With the Twisted Lip' and 'The Signalman', there is no use of sensory descriptions in 'The Red Room'. The sinister atmosphere is potrayed in the location through the way the numerous candles went out and the shadows room. As the narrrator looks about 'the large sombre room', he comments on 'its shadowy window bays, its recesses and alcoves'. These contribute to the Gothic atmosphere. Then we here 'the shadow in the alcove' had an 'undefinable quality of a presence'. We get the impression that it is alive and so its 'presence' is frightening. Later when the narrator had lit more candles in the room, after a while they began to go out on its own accord 'and the black shadow sprang back to its place there' in the alcove. The use of light and shadow is similar to Conan Doyle's setting, and the word 'sprang' gives the shadow something of a menacing nature. The narrator turns and sees the darkness as he saw 'the unexpected presence of a stranger'. Again 'presence' is used and the is linked with ghost and spirits. It also enhances the eerieness of the room. The shadow seems to have a well of its own, it took 'another step towards me', it is as if it is about to overtake him. The candles continue to go out like 'a volley', which emphasis the quickness it has done so without his control. The narrator turns to the fire, where it was 'splashing red reflections upon the furniture' giving the impression of blood stains. In a way the darkness is oppressing him - 'ponderous blackness' which is weighing him down. However in the other two stories, oppressive imagery is used through describing the air. As we have analysized above there are comparables and contrasts in the settings which the writers has choosen in 'The Signalman', 'The Man With the Twisted Lip' and 'the Red Room'. They have, undeniably, all used many techiques to ensure that the settings are unearthly, discomforting and disturbing to the reader. ...read more.

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