How do pre-1914 writers create a sense of suspense, mystery and fear?

How do pre-1914 writers create a sense of suspense, mystery and fear?

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How do pre-1914 writers create a sense of suspense, mystery and fear?

Comparison of three short novels

The Red Room is a very good ghost story that was written by H.G Wells.
The story was intended to be scary when it was written and it uses
tension, atmosphere and a scary plot. Without these key features it
would not succeed as a successful ghost story. The reason for this is
to entice the reader by giving them small clues so it does not give
the plot away, but you have to read on because it does not give enough
away only small clues, so it is still a mystery.

The main thing that helps create the good atmosphere for a ghost story
is that it is set in the old castle. It is occupied by the three old
people. They’re described as custodians.

The candles that are situated round the castle also helps create
atmosphere because it shows that it is in the night and most ghost
stories are set at night and it then in turn provides an eerie

At the beginning of the story the old people help add to the
atmosphere by saying the things that had apparently happened there in
the Red Room in the past. These things include; 'This night of all
nights,' this makes it sound like it could be a type of anniversary of
when something or someone had died or an event happened and this night
is the worst night to go to the Red Room.

'In which the young Duke had died.' This shows you that something
apparently had happened at the castle, a person had died in the Red
Room which adds more evidence to there being a ghost being in the
room. This then starts to make 'The Red Room' a better ghost story.
'And are you really going?' This shows that the man cannot believe
that he is going to The Red Room.

Other things such as the journey also turn out to be a good way of
building atmosphere in the story. The way to the room is deliberately
a long journey because if it was just up the corridor then there would
be no suspense about the room and what can happen on the way to the

The darkness of the journey also helps to create a ghostly atmosphere
because it makes the littlest things look like the scariest things as
in the dark things are not portrayed as what they really are.

'The ornaments and conveniences of the room about them were ghostly.'

The silence of the journey helps to create echoes which add also to

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How do pre-1914 writers create a sense of suspense, mystery and fear? Essay

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the atmosphere of the story. 'The echoes ran up and down….'

The second of the main things that make a successful ghost story is
tension. Tension through out the story is built up in different parts
but the story does keep up a steady pace of tension to keep the reader
interested in the story so they don't get bored.

The old people build the tension in 'The Red Room' by giving the
warnings to the narrator and telling him about things that had
supposedly happened in 'The Red Room.' Incidents such as the Duke
dying and the countess. 'In which the young Duke had died.' On the way
to the Red Room it is a point in the story that has quite a lot of
tension because as the narrator walks through the long corridors of
the abandoned castle he does not know what is round each corner. This
then starts on his mind about whether there is something with him.

'Moonlight picked out everything in vivid black shadow and silvery
illumination. '….my candle flared… as the shadows cover and quiver.'

This shows that the narrator starts to think that the shadows are
actually some sort of living thing that is following him. The candles
going out in the Red Room when the narrator is actually in 'The Red
Room' that is probably the biggest tension builder in the story.

'As I stood undecided, an invisible hand seemed to sweep out the two
candles on the table. With a cry of terror, I dashed at the alcove.'

This shows panic in the narrators actions and then when these candles
all start to go out then the narrator starts to maybe think that there
is something there with him.

This then links back to the spiritual being which helps to make a
successful ghost story. When the candles go out, they go out in
succession these then make it sound like the Spiritual Being, if there
is one, is playing games with the narrator. The candles going out
makes the narrator feel paranoid and makes him more and more scared as
the incident goes on. This makes the narrator feel disorientated and
then think things that he wouldn't think usually as he starts to have
irrational thoughts.

The last part of a successful ghost story is that it has to have a
scary plot. It must have some kind of either of murders ghost. It must
have things that are weird that you cannot recognise. The old people
tell the narrator of the Duke that had died there in the Red Room and
the countess that was not seen after she went into the Red Room. So
the history of the room is successful in building up a scary plot for
'The Red Room.'

The noises are increasingly scarier than they would be due to it being
dark. If he had heard these noises in the day it would not have scared
him but with the tension of it being dark the narrator is increasingly
more scared as he hears more noises.

'The echoes ran up and down the spiral staircase.'

Due to the long winding corridors when the noises are heard it is
worse as you hear the echoes of them which makes it much more
frightening for the narrator.

'The echoes ran up and down…'

Unidentified noises that you hear in other ghost stories are those of
owl's, wolfs and dogs but 'The Red Room' uses to the wind and
occasional banging as their choice of noises.

H.G Wells has created a successful ghost story by using the three main
aspects of atmosphere, tension and a scary plot. H.G Wells uses them
so when you read it you see images of what it is like and draw your
own conclusions of situations in the story. H.G Wells twists the story
and it becomes something different which gives it a mysterious plot as
well as a scary plot. It is a good portrayed ghost story, which you
have to follow closely to see how it is scary and why.

The Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the drama and suspense
begins immediately, and the reader is given almost a idea of what he
or she is in store for. This places the reader in a confused state of
mind, so already the reader's attention has been grabbed, and
throughout the story, like a detective the reader will see to each
detail of the story.

A strong, suspenseful story unravels when Holmes disturbs Watson from
his sleep at a improper time in the morning, according to Watson. It
brings tension to the story once again so early on, we realize that to
be up at an early a time in the morning, would only be for a special

When the detectives interview the woman at their office, we are told
of her state, she is shivering, and is said to have pre-maturely grey
hair. This alone does not bring suspense to the reader, but when we
are told that she shivers not from the cold, but from her fear, it
begins to become a lot clearer.

We also find out that the woman is quite young, but has grey hairs,
the only reason I thought of for a woman to have grey hairs early, was
because of stress of some kind. This creates tension by making us want
to find out what was so stressful to cause her early greyness, so we
ask ourselves what might’ve caused this.

Shortly afterwards we learn that Helen's cause for the distress she
has been put through is her step father, who is described to have
quite a evil attitude at times. We find out that Helen is due to marry
just like her sister was before her murder, and that the Stepfather
could once again pull off another appalling stunt to earn himself some
more money.

Once Helen had left, Dr. Roylott appears to us for the first time in
Holmes' doorway. 'So tall was he that the top of his hat actually
brushed the cross bar of the doorway, and his breadth seemed to span
across it from side to side.'

He is described as having 'A large face, seared with a thousand
wrinkles, burned yellow from the sun, and marked with every evil
passion' he is also said to have 'deep, bile shot eyes' and a 'high,
thin fleshless nose' which resembled 'a fierce old bird of prey.' From
this and an earlier description of him by his stepdaughter, from which
we learn that he has killed two people already we realise that he has
particularly violent past.

Watson and Holmes, interested by the case that Helen has given them,
soon find their way to the house of Dr. Roylott to examine Julia's
room, where Helen was presently sleeping. This brings tension to the
story immediately, because Helen is sleeping in the room where her
Sister was murdered, at a time so close to her wedding.

There were also items in the room that led to no use, a bell rope that
led to nowhere, and a ventilator that does not ventilate, it simply
led from Dr. Roylott's room, to Julia's. As readers we study the
evidence ourselves, and bring all our suspicion to Dr Roylott, raising
suspense in the story.

Holmes and Watson's only way to solve the Mystery was to travel at
night to the Manor, and climb through one of the windows into Julia's
room. During their walk across the land, we are very tense even
without anything happening, because we know that Dr. Roylott keeps the
strangest of animals, a baboon and a cheetah.

The atmosphere rises, knowing that it is not only us who are held in
this tension, but realizing that Holmes and Watson are scared.

We know that Holmes as a detective is always ahead of everyone else.
He had already noticed the ventilator connecting the two rooms and the
bell rope that hung over the bed, and the fact that the bed was bolted
into place and could not be moved. All these pieces of evidence link,
and by now we all know that something is bound to happen.

Knowing that the ventilator is the only possible way of Roylott
connecting himself between the two rooms, it is obvious that it has
something to do with the murder of Julia. When the snake drops through
the ventilator, under the darkness we cannot see anything, this makes
us feel like were in the darkness, the dark itself is tense enough,
but to be attacked by a creature in the dark, is a very restless
moment in the story, and it is where the tension climax‘s.

I believe that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has created tension very well
in his story, and by making the evidence slot together piece by piece
it also allows the reader to interact with the story itself, trying to
guess the conclusion before you reach the end of the story.

The Signalman by Charles Dickens has created this short story by
building tension from the start to the end - One of his many ways of
building tension is through his descriptive sentences.

There is a very good opening as the narrator shouts "Halloa! Below
there!", which are key words throughout this chilling short story. The
exclamation marks at once gives an alarming feeling of suspense and
raises tension as the reader cannot understand who is speaking. This
introduction leaves the reader with suspicious thoughts about both
characters as they haven’t given much information about each other.

This speech sets off the plot, as later on it is shown that there is a
lot more meaning to that sentence. It is only half way through the
first paragraph when Dickens says this short story is written from a
first person point of view.

The Signal man has shown that he is a partially well educated man, who
has attempted to teach himself. The Narrator does not approve of the
"gloomier entrance" of the "black tunnel". "Vague vibrations in the
earth and the air", are felt by the Signal man, which is one of the
many ways that Dickens hints something is wrong.

The Narrator is afraid and senses an something bad is to happen
leaving him and the reader in suspense. The Signal man strikes him as
"a spirit, not a man", although he shortly believes there may have
been "infection in his mind". Dickens does not give too much away on
the anonymous Narrator and focuses mostly on the Signal man. It is not
told why the Narrator has come to this "dungeon", and Dickens builds
up the climax slowly as the Signal man does not answer the narrators
questions', but instead remains silent.

This is when the reader begins to feel that there is something
unbalanced about the mysterious man.

Charles Dickens describes the Signalman as a "dark sallow man" with
"heavy eyebrows" and "a dark beard". This presents the Signalman as a
very grim and dark man. He works in his "solitary" and "dismal"
station away from people, he is seen as a loner. The Narrator tells us
that the Signalman is a, once educated, person that "never rose" from
the valleys' walls. This builds up tension as the Signalman seems to
appear stranger and stranger by the second, causing the narrator, to
fear of what may happen. Dickens may be implying that the Signal man
is a villain in this short story as the title is based on him, which
is very misleading.

Dickens pities the signal man as there was not much that he could do,
this supernatural event that he got himself involved in led him to his
death. "..Misused his opportunities, gone down and never risen again",
Dickens says, as the Signal man fails to take the opportunity given to
him as a warning, and doesn’t understand it and loses his chance at

The Signalman acted in strange and odd ways, you could say that he was
disturbed in the mind due to the things that he often sees. The
oddness of the Signal man seems to decrease after every visit from the
narrator, although the climax increases and unfinished information is
given, making the reader wanting to read the next visit.

The Signal mans' descriptive position's of the ghost were awkward, "He
had his left hand at his chin and that left elbow rested on his right
hand crossed his breast", which is not a usual or normal stance. Some
may say that the Signal man is so confused in and he has spent too
much time alone, shut away. This could be the reason for not
recognising that dangers that lie ahead. At the beginning, when the
Narrator calls out the Signalman "looked at the danger light" near the
tunnel, rather than looking in the direction of the Narrator himself,
the reader may find this peculiar.

As the Narrator slowly approaches the Signalman down the "wet and oozy
slope", he states that there was a "cold chill" that stuck to him as
though he had left the "natural world".

This is a sign from him saying that he knows that something is
supernatural about the place that he was in a abnormal world, that he
clearly isn’t heaven, as he is descending which could mean he is
walking into hell. The 'wet' and 'oozy' slope give an uneasy feeling
to the reader, as if to say that in the top of the valley there is
firm normal ground, but at the bottom it is slippery and could cause
an accident.

His visions of the ghost at-once fools the Narrator into thinking that
he is mad and he is hallucinating.

The 'dark, sallow man' says that the ghost regularly ‘gesticulates’
his arm with "passion and vehemence", bowing his head down and covers
his face with his arms. He also says that the ghost shouted the very
words that the Narrator had said at the beginning of the short story,
'Halloa below there'.

At the end the twist shows that the Signalman had many warnings of the
coming events. The words "Halloa! Below there!" had been from the
train driver trying to warn the Signalman to get out of the way. The
ghosts’ actions had been because after the crash the train driver had
been in the same position. ‘Gesticulating’ of the arms was supposed to
mean "Get out of the way!".

Charles Dickens' fine examination of the signal man ends in a climax
in which the clues have been given in a cautious but clear manner.

All three of these stories have suspense, fear, tension, mystery and a
very extraordinary climax to each of them. They have all been written
by great writers who know how to make the reader interact with the
story and wanting them to grab on. This is a very good use of devices
which make us want to read on.

My favourite which I read a couple of times was the Signalman, it was
extremely bizarre plot but, keeps you guessing and surprised after
every turn of the page. It then unravels into a terrible tragedy and
cannot help feeling sorry for the Signalman.

The Red Room had enormous amounts of suspense throughout the whole
story, which I could feel. This was done using many devices, such as
he sinister darkness.

The Speckled Band is the clever one, which has little links to every
part, resulting in them finding the sinister crime being found.
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