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What methods do the writers use in order to create mood, atmosphere and character in the short stories you have studied?

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Introduction

What methods do the writers use in order to create mood, atmosphere and character in the short stories you have studied? The horror story genre is one of mystery and intrigue. In the times before television and radio horror stories used to be told to groups of people as a form of entertainment. The story tellers intent was to keep the audience guessing and on the edge of their seats. Although by today's standards these stories seem rather tame, in the period in which they were written they would have captivated and scared their audiences much as would the latest Hollywood thriller scare us today. All of the horror stories that we have covered share the common themes of the supernatural and death two leading principles incorporated into horror stories of this particular genre. The opening of a Victorian horror novel is of great importance, it must be able to draw the reader in and make them want to read on. Therefore the opening must not give too much away and plant lots of unanswered questions in the readers mind. However it also has to make you suspicious of either a character or place at the same time as withholding information. A good example of this technique is seen in The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens. The start of this story builds tension and atmosphere; it makes us wary and suspicious of the Signal-Man and makes us wonder what event has caused him to behave in such a strange manner. ...read more.

Middle

This tells us that he is scared of the paw and we immediately start wondering why such a strong looking, travel hardened man should be so scared of a small mummified object. My last examples come from The Red Room and Draculas Guest. In The Red Room the old people at the start are seem to be not all there and we are led to believe that their stories are just the mad ramblings of cooped up pensioners trying to scare the confident young man. These feelings are conveyed by H.G. Wells because he describes them with withered arms, bent backs and decaying teeth and in the quote "I half expected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house by their droning insistence." He also makes them cough and seem very ill and unhealthy so that we are disinclined to believe their stories. In Draculas guest the coach driver is made out to be very strange and mysterious. At the thought of venturing down the road he becomes frantic and scared trying desperately to explain to the English man why this is not a good idea; however he is kept mysterious by the fact that his sentences are mostly in German which means we can't understand what he is warning the narrator of. This is shown in the quotes "At this he grew very pale, and, looking around in a frightened way, he suddenly jumped forward" and "his English was quite gone now. In his anxiety he had forgotten that his only means of making me understand was to talk my language." ...read more.

Conclusion

When reading the stories I found that the endings all seemed to work on the same principles. These were leave questions unanswered and surprise the reader, such as in the Signal-Man when he is unexpectedly killed at the end and in The Monkey's Paw when we never find out whether Herbert was behind the door. This shows that Victorian audiences liked to be kept guessing at the end of the story. However I disliked this type of ending as I prefer the ending to answer all my questions such as in Lost Hearts and The Red Room. These stories explained the mysterious events and yet still made for an enjoyable read. The ones where lots of questions were unanswered left you feeling flat and confused, as not all the story seemed to make sense and I was hoping that this would be explained at the end, but to no avail. Another point about the endings of the stories is that the tension always seems to build you up and then falls flat and generally disappoints you. This was most apparent in The Monkeys Paw and The Signal-Man. In conclusion I think that the key components to a good Victorian horror story are: mysterious characters, ideas of the supernatural and death, a secluded dark setting, a first person narrator, lots of imagery, building tension and an ending that shocks and leaves questions unanswered. I feel that the story which fills these criteria most effectively was the signalman by Charles Dickens. ...read more.

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