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Tension and Suspense in the Monkey’s Paw Essay

There are many techniques that are used to create tension and suspense in ‘The Monkey’s Paw’. From the very beginning we can see that the language used sets the scene and conveys the mood of the story; “the night was cold and wet”. Pathetic fallacy immediately implies that the story will be based on evil and creates tension as it intrigues the reader. We can see that the language used helps the story to become fast paced which contributes to creating tension and suspense. We can also see that there are many words that create suspense by themselves; “the words died away on his lips”, “beastly”, “slushy”. All of these words used keep in with the Gothic genre that characters are described negatively and the descriptions of objects are negative.

The dialogue used also builds up tension and suspense:

‘As I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake’

‘Well, I don’t see the money,’ said his wife

From this we can see that by having a section in dialogue, it heightens the tension at that point and quickens the pace of the story. Furthermore, we can see that a simile has been used which helps the reader to visualise what Mr White went through. We can also see that the punctuation used in the story also helps to create tension and suspense, “What’s that?” By italicising the text, it adds emphasis onto it and shows the reader that the character is shocked and speaking in a raised voice. This intensifies the tension and makes the reader want to read on to find out what happens.

The fact that the story is in a narrative perspective also creates tension and suspense. As the story is written in the third person, the reader is more removed from the story and the emotional impact. This is a definite contrast to the Red Room, which is written in the first person. The story is more emotive if in first person, as it is as if you are looking through someone’s eyes and sharing the same feelings that they experience.

The vocabulary used and descriptions of characters is vital in creating tension and suspense. By giving a negative description of every character, it adds to the suspense of the story as we can tell that that person is associated with evil and it is only a matter of time before that character has influences the story. Also, by not giving full descriptions of characters adds uncertainty to that character and makes the reader want to read on to find out what will happen to that character.

Tension and suspense is also created through the use of sentences; “His wife sat up in bed listening. A loud knock resounded through the house.” By using short sentences, it adds pace to the story which aids the build up of tension and suspense. Furthermore, we can see that there is a contrast between sentence structures in key areas. When the tension and suspense is building to a climax, the sentences become shorter and sharper to create pace. However, directly after a climax, there is usually a period in the story where there is a descriptive passage which includes longer sentences and longer words:

There was an air of prosaic wholesomeness about the room which it had lacked on the previous night, and the dirty, shrivelled little paw was pitched on the sideboard with a carelessness which betokened no grief belief in its virtues.

This sentence is in severe contrast to the sentences that lead up to a climax in the story. Whereas the shorter sentences want to build up tension and suspense, these longer sentences want to reduce the tension and suspense so that you are not prepared for a climax.

Another way in which the author creates tension and suspense is by withholding information, “‘Well, it’s just a bit of what you call magic perhaps,'”. The way in which the monkeys paw is initially described intrigues and builds up suspense as not much is mentioned about the paw. Furthermore, we can see that tension and suspense is also created by delaying the delivery of key facts; “‘Badly hurt,’ he said quietly, ‘but he is not in any pain.'” By delaying the mention of the White family’s son’s death, it adds suspense and compels the reader to continue reading.

Also, the fact that the descriptions of all the characters are not very detailed, gives the characters ambiguity which makes the reader want to find out more about the character as it is implied that that character is mysterious and evil; “a tall, burly man, beady of eye and rubicund of visage”. The fact that the man is “rubicund of visage” suggests that the man is drunk and therefore creates suspense as details about the character are limited.

The author also creates tension by having a good plot. The fact that the plot has peaks and valleys in tension is effective because the author manipulates the reader’s emotions. By having three high tension points, the author makes sure that the reader is not prepared for what is going to happen. Instead of having the whole story leading up to a climax at the end, Jacobs uses three tension points to keep the readers interest. As one of the tension points is at the start of the story, he grabs the reader’s attention and makes the reader want to read on to the end.

We see that there are several contrasts in the play. On of the main contrasts can be seen at the beginning, “the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnum Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly.” We can see that there is a contrast between the outside of the house, where it is dark and dreary, and the inside of the house, where it is happy and cosy. This gives the reader a suggestion that something bad is going to happen. Furthermore, we can see that there is a contrast between superstition and scepticism.

In the Victorian times, people where very superstitious and would have believed that the Monkey’s paw could actually have a magical effect. However, Jacobs contrasts this by having a rational family that has a cavalier attitude to the monkey’s paw. This would have created tension and suspense as the readers of the time would have known something bad was going to happen as the White family would have been seen as outcasts.

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