This essay will compare and analyse the Red Room, The Monkey’s Paw and the Signalman and will look at how each author build up tension and suspense. We are exposed to graphic imagery everyday in books, films etc and so is a common thing to us but people in the pre 20th century who were shocked by the tension created by the authors were as when we watch or read a book or film with tension in it we usually know when to expect it.
When making a scary film, it is a lot easier to make a viewer scared as you can use music, sound effects, surprise elements and many other attributions, however, when writing a book the whole approach seems to be completely different. The writers have no special effects or music to tempt the reader, so they use very strong expressions and describe the scenery enough for you to feel you are actually there and have a picture of the scene in your mind. This also gives your imagination the chance to play a part which can sometimes be the more elaborate and chilling in design then the original description.
In the Monkey’s Pay the author starts by describing the night, “the night was cold and wet,” this is a typical ghost story setting and instantly knows that it is a sign of danger and some sort of trouble. At the start we see a close competition of chess between father and son. This competition is also cosy and safe.
However in The Red Room, H.G. Wells gets the story started on the main topic straight away. In the opening paragraph he mentions ghosts and hints death by describing the woman’s eyes as “pale eyes” which is associated with death. Many subtle threats are made in the first paragraph, “It is your own choosing,” which is repeated twice and “she swayed her head slowly from side to side.” Also in the opening of the story we see a servant/master relationship between the first two characters which we were introduced to.
The opening line “Halloa! Below there!” plunges us immediately into the story, telling us that we must be attentive in order to follow the story. It also makes our imagination start to ask questions, for example; who is saying this? Who are they speaking to? This is a good method to gradually build up tension.
The ghosts repetitive behavior makes us feel anxious. The ghost always shouts, ‘Halloa! Below there!’ He waves his arm and covers his eyes.
Dickens’ portrayal of the tunnel and the cutting is very detailed, and is expressed through use of onametipeigei words. For instance; ‘zigzag’ and ‘gloomy’ these words get an apparent image of the cutting and this tunnel, resulting in us feeling we are involved in the story. The signalmans appearance is quite peculiar as is his behavior. He looks at the bell when it does not ring and talks of a ghost. His eyebrows are thick and his skin tone is odd. Painting a picture of a mysterious looking man.
When we hear the signalmans’ story, it is one with such a horrific plot that we become drawn in. When the author continuously interrupts it, we become more anxious and become desperate to hear the rest of the story. Dickens’ use of painful personification, like ‘angry sunset’ and ‘violent pulsation’ contributes greatly to the stories impact. Short sentences and repetition also make us feel tense.
Possibly the fact that Dickens does not give the signalman a name shows that he is considered unimportant to most people. Dickens may want us to argue against this view and to think that all human beings are important.
Dickens uses his narrative style to set the scene and describe the movement of characters. The narrator describes the railway cutting signal box as a “solitary and dismal place,” with “dripping wet walls of jagged stone,” and appeals to our senses by saying that that the tunnel has “an earthy, deadly smell”. The narrator also observes the signalman attentively and describes his movement. The following quotes from ‘The Signalman show this, “He was several times interrupted by the little bell, and had to read off messages and send replies,” he continues, “I observed him to be remarkably exact and vigilant, breaking off his disclosure at a syllable, and remaining silent until what he had to do was finished.” This allows us to imagine that we are in the room with the signalman, watching him as he works, noting every detail of his movement and actions.
Dickens writing style makes us feel we are actually there, watching the events of the story. The following quote describes demonstrates the effects of Dickens narrative style, “it was made through a clammy stone that became oozier and wetter as I went down”. This allows us to feel as if we are walking down the “zigzag path”. Although this is very realistic, this style has limits. This also adds to the mysterious atmosphere.