“The Red Room”, “The Signalman” and “The Man with the Twisted Lip”

I am going to explore the settings the writers of the three stories “The Red Room” by H. G. Wells “The Signalman” by Charles Dickens and “The Man with the Twisted Lip” by Arthur Conan Doyle and how they contribute to the atmosphere. In all three stories the reader is kept in suspense one way or another. In “The Red Room” you are kept in suspense from the start as the tension is built up with stories about the room and the terrible things that have happened there. In “The Signalman” you get told very little about where anything is or who anyone is this gives whoever is reading a very eerie feeling about it.

In “The Man with the Twisted Lip” however instead of not describing the settings the writer uses lots of words such as dark, dingy and lurking to create a very detailed picture of the characters and their surroundings which draws the reader in and creates a feeling of actually being there. The setting in “The Red Room” is of a castle. We are not told where the castle actually is but we are given in quite a bit of detail different areas of the castle itself especially the Red Room.

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In “The Signalman” it is made to sound very desolate and barren as the reader is told almost nothing about where the story is set, apart from the railway track and cutting it runs through. You are made to feel very uncertain about this story as you read. “The Man with the Twisted Lip” is very detailed, this makes it seem very realistic and gives a very clear picture of where you are, almost as if you were there in the east of London. “The Red Room” is set in a castle; you are not told where it is or even what country it is in.

The writer focuses on the detail of the red room and the walk that the main character takes to get there. There are lots of references to light and dark in the red room that give you the sense that wherever you are in this castle something is there with you. The red room itself has an eerie red glow which could suggest danger, blood or death. It also has lots of places where it is pitch black and you don’t know what is there, as well as the candles going out. All create a very disturbing atmosphere and the writer has done this to play on your worst fears etc.

The Signalman” has a very vivid setting and the writer has chosen to say very little about the whereabouts of the railway line on which it is set. This itself creates a mysterious atmosphere as the writer talks about the cutting where the train tracks run through as being “a channel of damp air that could never rise up into the sunshine” giving the reader the feeling of it being in darkness with little to no light in the day and pitch black at night making it seem very eerie, also the tunnel being black so you don’t know what would happen if you went in or what could come out of it.

All these different things plus the suggestion of different people being ghosts or spectres create a dingy mysterious and scary atmosphere and the feeling of not knowing who or what is real. “The Man with the Twisted Lip” is very realistic as it is set in the east of London around the docks and is almost exactly how London would have been at that time. There are lots of different settings in this story the first of which is Watson’s house and it says that it has a “cheery living room” which makes it sound like a nice place to be, happy etc.

The second of these settings are all the different places in London such as Upper Swandon Lane which the writer describes as, “a vile alley, lurking behind the high wharves which line the north the side river”. Words such as vile and lurking make it sound disgusting and a dangerous place to be. The most important setting in this story is the Opium Den which is made to sound very secretive and dark. When the writer talks about the room being long and low and thick with brown opium smoke it gives the reader the feeling of being trapped and not knowing who or what is in there.

I believe the writer has chosen to show two very different places; the first being Watson’s house and the second being the opium den so as to create a big contrast and to make the bad places seem worse. In all three stories the reader is made to feel trapped somewhere either by not telling you much about the surroundings or giving lots of details to make somewhere such as the opium den seem enclosed and overpowering, the writers of each story also play with words such as vile, damp, dark and light to create a disturbing and unnatural atmosphere in which the story is then set.

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