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How do the writers of “the Cone”, The Red Room” and “The Man with the Twisted Lip, create atmosphere, tension and suspense?


In this piece of course work I will be looking at how the writers of three short stories create atmosphere, tension and suspense, through the choice of setting, the role of the narrator, how the other characters are used, how the stories are structured, the use of language, your own response to the stories. I will be looking at “The Cone” and “The Red Room” by H.G Wells, and “The Man with the Twisted Lip” By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


In “The Red Room” Wells uses mans fear of darkness to his advantage “even with seven candles the place was merely dim” (pg7), Wells knows that most people are afraid of the dark and so he knows that the reader can relate to the characters when the become afraid of the darkness, this builds up tension with the reader as they can relate to what is happening. This is the only story out of all three that is set in a secluded place “Lorraine Castle” (pg5) In history castles have been the settings of many horror stories and having his book set in a castle instantly creates a sense tension and atmosphere as the reader knows that a castles are already scary places.


This is in contrast to the other two stories as they are both set in outside areas or move between different areas. “The Man with the Twisted Lip” is set in London but in two contrasting parts the respectable area of “Lee” (pg8) and the crime infested East end where the docks are situated. This contrast creates an atmosphere as the reader is kept wondering what will happen next? Doyle uses human fears to his advantage just like Wells does in “The Red Room” in the Victorian time when this story would have been read the industrial revolution was happening and the new machines and vehicles would have been slightly scary to them. So the docks would have been a scary place to them. Also the “Vile alleys” would have been a scary place to the Victorians as Jack the ripper was around there and the alleys are where Jack the Ripper killed. All of this really creates atmosphere, tension and suspense to the reader, especially the Victorian readers. Doyle really built upon this by using scenes like sounds and smells, which are a humans best scenes, to give the reader a better picture in their head of what is being described.





In “The Cone” also by Wells he used the Victorian reader’s lack of knowledge for the new machinery to build up atmosphere, tension and suspense like Doyle did in “The Man with the Twisted Lip”. Wells sets the scene in the opening paragraph which puts a picture straight into the readers mind and uses descriptions of light and sound to add to the atmosphere “sound of a roaring and rushing grew nearer” (pg1), “There was a glare of light above the cutting” (pg1).


The narrators play an important part in all the story’s in “The Red Room” the narrator is first person and is unnamed , he is a flawed rationalist, he says there will be nothing there that can scare him “that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me” (pg1) but he still is carrying a gun “Then, with my hand in the pocket that held my revolver” This contradiction within the narrator creates an unease and lack of trust with the reader and so creates tension. Wells breaks the narrator down throughout the book to show that fear can affect anyone and on (pg11) the narrator Says “there is no ghost there at all; but worse, far worse” this really scares the reader and builds up the tension, and suspense then he explains “Fear” is the room this is an anti-climax, and the reader can now relax and the atmosphere begins to calm.


In “The Man with the Twisted Lip” the narrator is 1st person and we know who he is, his name is “Watson” (pg5) and he is known worldwide so the reader instantly feels she knows him and this forces the reader to trust him, also Watson is a doctor and people feel they can trust doctors so this adds to the trust. Watson is familiar with the other characters and this relaxes the tension which there would normally be if he was meeting these characters for the first time. Doyle has made Watson into an un-biased character who just reports the situation to whoever he is talking to; this keeps the atmosphere, tension, and suspense low as they know Watson is telling the truth. This is a totally different approach to a narrator compared to the narrator of “The Red Room” which there is little trust at all.


In “The Cone” Wells has used a rd person narrator which is different to the 1st person narrators used in the other two stories and we do not know his name. He used complex wording “ceremonial politeness” (pg5) and this creates a sense of trust with the reader, and like Watson did he reports the story with no opinions given which keeps a relaxed atmosphere when he is explaining.


In “The red room” Wells has used now clich�d characters to build atmosphere, tension, and suspense. The characters in the castle the start of the story are very clich�d in today’s society and so are less scary to today’s readers but to the Victorian readers they would have been very frightening. An example of a clich�d character is “the man with the withered arm” in Victorian times he would have built suspense, tension and a spooky atmosphere but today it does not. The old lady builds tension when she says “this night of all nights!” (pg) which makes it sound like something big will happen this night, also the old characters repeat what they say and this repetition builds a really spooky atmosphere.


In “The Man with the Twisted Lip” Sherlock Holmes is used and he is a famous character throughout the world so there is an instant trust between him and the reader. He is used to solve the mystery, but is very secretive and this ads tension as the reader wants to know what he knows. Also he is very clever, organised and precise which creates a calmer atmosphere when he is around. Neville is an exact opposite to the beggar “I will not have them ashamed” (pg7) also the beggar is not respected “Shock of orange hair” (pg1) where as Neville is, and this contrast builds up atmosphere when these characters are around. There is also an oriental feel added by some of the other characters “Lascar” which is an oriental fisherman plus opium was originally an oriental drug.


In “The Cone” Horrocks is used to ad a scary element he is described as the “ironmaster” which adds a tension when ever he is around as it gives the impression of evil, He is obsessed with his creation of the industrial site “That dreadful theory of yours that machinery is beautiful, and everything else in the world is ugly” (wife pg4) this adds a tense atmosphere when Horrocks is around his machines. When Horrocks first enters he enters from the shadows which are related to evil and this reflects his character. Raut is afraid of Horrocks and feels that he might be killed by him “had Horrocks actually held him back in the way of the train” and this tension between the two characters adds tension and suspense whenever they are together. Horrocks is a very intimidating character and refers to blood, evil, sin and the devil. “it will boil the blood out of you in no time” (pg1) and these referrals to things that are related to evil adds a sense that Horrocks is kind of supernatural which in tern creates tension and suspense around him.


The structure of a story is very important and can add to the tension, suspense and atmosphere. In “The Red Room” There are nine stages of the narrator going to be rational to being frightened and back to ration again these stages are 1.Talking to the old people, .The approach to “The Red Room” .sees the bronze group gets scared “someone crouching” 4.Stairs to “The Red Room” 5.”Sudden twinge of apprehension” remembers where the duke fell. 6. Goes into “the Red Room” begins to become frightened. 7.Candles begin to go out, panic. 8. Panics and gets knocked out .Talks about fear with the old people which echo’s the story of the duke. Also the long sections of dialog distract from the tension and short speech adds to it.


As in “The Red Room” long sections of dialog ease the tension and short speech adds to it. There is action from the outset which gets the reader involved straight away and we are given the background to the characters on pg1. We aren’t given the full explanation of what happened in the story till the end which keeps the reader on the edge trying to think what could have happened this also adds tension as the reader id tense. The entire story is told through speech and conversation which means the reader can stay with the plot all the way through.


In “The Cone” again long description eases off the tension and short snappy sentences and speech add tension. These long complex sections help the reader to understand what is happening. We know what will eventually happen, that Raut will eventually be murdered by Horrocks and this puts the reader on edge as they are waiting to see when it happens which really build a tense atmosphere and major suspense. The short sentences at the end build up suspense to Raut’s murder. Tension is built through out the story using a series of anti-climax’s which keep the reader interested e.g. when Horrocks holds Raut in front of the train then pulls him out of the way.


The language in a story is another element which can add atmosphere, suspense and tension. In “The Red Room” the narrator speaks of fear as an object not a feeling and the story ends with fear which everybody can relate to, the language in the story is sophisticated so that all the characters are viewed the same this keeps an un-biased viewpoint on each character so that the reader can make up there own mind on each character. Repetition is used to really emphasise important parts “Fear” and spooky adjectives are used like “spectre”, “ghost” and “darkness” this gives the story a supernatural feel. There is a biased way of telling the story, the narrator only talks about the supernatural elements and not the normal ones and so the reader feels as if there is something supernatural going on but at the end it is told that it is only “fear”. Imagery or personification is used a lot where human things are used to describe non-human objects “tongue of flame”; Imagery is used a lot in this story through use of metaphors, similes and personification.


The language in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” is very intelligent and sophisticated with an oriental feel to it, and long complex words are used to show that the characters are well educated and so we trust them. Conversation is used to tell the story unlike the others where description is used, and the important parts are repeated to make sure the reader recognizes that it is important. Many questions are asked on pg.0 and where murder is being discussed on pg17 short sentences are used. People’s faces are described a lot and the story is written in a formal Victorian language.


In “the Cone” a lot of imagery is used like in “The Red Room” to aid the reader and to give them a better understanding of what the scene looks like and how it would have made the characters feel “seemed to swallow down train, smoke and sound in one abrupt gulp” (pg1) another example of personification is “The round eye of light in front of it” (pg). There is a lot of long description of the big machines so that the reader can really envisage what it would have looked like and what the atmosphere was like there.


I liked all three stories but my favourite story is “The Cone” by Wells you can really get the feeling of how Raut must of felt when he was walking round the iron works with Horrocks; the descriptions of the machines really add tension suspense and atmosphere to the story better than both of the other stories. I prefer the rd person narrator to the first as you really feel like you are hearing a story and not a diary reading. The way in which the anti-climax’s keeps the reader hooked as well, is another point I like, there is no point in the story where I got bored.


In “The Man with the twisted Lip” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I liked the contrast between Lee and the East end it really added a good atmosphere by switching between the two and I like the final outcome of the story. Another good point is that you don’t get the full explanation of what has happened till the end but you know that Holmes knows what is happening; this keeps you involved in the story. The thing which I didn’t like in this story was the lack of excitement and suspense there needed to be more.


In “The Red Room” I didn’t like the clich�d characters, I know they would have worked back in the time when it was written but they have been too overused to work today. I like the stages of the narrator going from rational to scared and back to rational I feel this is clear to the reader, and also each reader will be able to pick up on their own nine stages, not everyone will see them the same. Another point I like is the contradiction between the narrator believing he is rational and saying there will be nothing supernatural or scary there but still carrying a gun.








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