Over the last few weeks, we have been studying in detail several pre-1914 horror stories. In particular ones that were written in the period of the Industrial Revolution in England. The Industrial revolution was no doubt a very troubling time for Victorians; dramatic alterations were introduced to major areas of Victorian society. Normality was taken away from them and replaced by a repetitive yet unknown routine. It is therefore no coincidence that there was an increase in stories written in the horror genre.
It was the fear and uncertainty of the new, refined civilisation that inspired writers to create the horror stories that we have read. The beginning of every story is fundamental; it is the first genuine opportunity that the writer has to entice the reader. Consequently, in all of the texts that we studied, the author incorporates the above mentioned narrative techniques to enhance the opening scene, establishing the horror genre. This is demonstrated in the opening of ‘The Signalman’ when the author immediately puts the focus on the main character of the story.
Dickens describes the Signalman as “foreshortened and shadowed” which provides the reader with a sense of foreboding and even suggests there might be a ghostly presence. Weather conditions are very influential in a horror composition; for instance darkness is strongly related to horror and can often be used as a connotation of fear. However in ‘The Signalman’ Dickens uses the opposite of darkness yet still manages to create the same effect. The quote “angry sunset” is an example of both pathetic fallacy and juxtaposition; it presents contrasting images to the reader and prophesizes the shocking revelations that are set to unfold.
The key theme for the setting in the horror genre is isolation. The solitary feeling encountered when facing danger alone is ideal when creating the appropriate setting and ambience for a horror text. In ‘The Signalman’, Dickens has deliberately chosen a dreary and remote setting combined with an isolated location to expand on the intimidating atmosphere and menacing mood that was depicted from the opening, “extremely deep and precipitous cutting. ” Onomatopoeia is then cleverly utilised to provide a more realistic atmosphere that can invoke deeper feelings, “clammy” and “oozier” to name a few.
Not only do they develop the setting further but they build up a creepy and chilling mood that goes hand in hand with the horror genre. On the other hand, W. W. Jacobs the author of ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ describes a hospitable and comforting setting, “the fire burned brightly, father and son were at chess” which suggests a harmonic and surreal atmosphere. The reader then quickly establishes this is not the case, “of all the beastly, slushy out of the way places to live, this is the worst. ” This works well because the juxtaposition puts emphasis on the sombre setting so when it does come about makes it more dramatic.
The semantic field used to illustrate the location of both ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ and ‘The Signalman’ is associated with shock and terror. There are many instances in the texts when characters foreshadow future events in the story; “perhaps you’ll win the next one” proposes that the ending to ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ will not be a fortunate one. The game of chess has a hidden moral – the strategic game explores the consequences of fate and implies there will be more than one loser in the story. Every type of prose has characters of some sort. The portrayal of these characters is essential.