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The setting and atmosphere of three short stories

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In this course work I am going to examine the settings from three stories, “the man with the twisted lip” written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “the signal man” written by Charles dickens, he was influenced by a train crash he had experienced that year, that’s why his story was about a signal man and trains, and “the red room” written by H. G Wells. All three stories are good examples of Victorian short stories, and each story has a good idea of setting the atmosphere. For “the signal man” the railway tracks in Victorian times had only just been introduced through out the country and were the most modern technology and form of transport.

The setting and atmosphere in “the man with the twisted lip” had a change of atmosphere through out the story as it starts off in a warm cosy house, then down into a dark smoky opium den with flickering lights and men who are camped out all over the basement looking dead but they are only high on drugs, then out into the dark smoggy, damp streets of London, in this period of time a very famous killer “Jack the Ripper” was roaming the streets attacking random people and experimenting on them, the killer was so good at what he did he was never caught by the police.

At the time when “the red room” was written, writers were very interested in writing gothic stories which usually consists of ghosts, curses, hidden rooms, and witch craft, whilst the usual locations were castle, monasteries and cemeteries. H. G Wells does not tell you exactly when the story took place but uses some gothic elements to give you a little clue as to when. Well known gothic elements are places or people such as, normally Lorraine castle, grotesque characters, haunted rooms, ghosts, witches, superstition, previous deaths and curses. The Red Room” and “The Man with the Twisted Lip” are almost contemporary with each other.

Each of these stories were written at different times but they all have similarities on how good they are at setting the scene and atmosphere for there stories. Charles Dickens wrote his story in 1865, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his in 1891 and H. G Wells wrote his story in 1894. The narrators of “The Signal Man” and “The Red Room” were both seeking to find something out. All of the authors seem to use symbolic colours, like red which is associated with blood, fire, and warm terrifying thoughts.

They also use black which puts the character in a position of blindness, not knowing what is going to happen next, the colour associates with gothic aspects. When trains where first running properly around the country they had signal boxes with a signal man who’s jobs where to indicate to train drivers whether it is ok to come or go down a certain track. Most of the signal boxes where somewhere out in the middle of know where and were very isolated. The signal box in “The Signal Man” was set out very well in the story. The signal box in the story was put in place which makes it quite mysterious.

It was set in the country side in a small valley with steep rocky walls which looked upon the signal box either side of the train track. It also tells me that it is on another level to everything else which makes the atmosphere of the area feel quite closed in, and know one would be able to see or hear anything you might do. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had created many scenes which one seemed to contrast with the rest. Dr Watson’s home which made the character feel quite warm and cosy, as the writer describes him and his wife sitting in an arm chair by a fire with candle lights around the room to open up the rest of the room.

The contrasting scene in when Dr Watson visits the Golden bar “opium den”, which is described as vile, dark and gloomy. The writer concentrates on the senses of the story which makes it very effective in that setting. The narrator in the signal man uses supernatural aspects to suspense, in the signal box the bells that tell him a train is coming start to vibrate but only the signal man himself can see it, it creates huge suspense as the reader will not know what is going to happen next.

The narrator of the read room also uses supernatural actions. He makes the candles flicker more than then they would which makes the reader feel like there is someone else in the room. “The Man with the Twisted Lip” creates tension by using mysterious settings, “Our own door flew open, and a lady, clad in some dark coloured stuff, with a black veil, entered the room”. “Our own door flew open”, suggests some kind of emergency or danger.

A lady, clad in some dark coloured stuff” suggests that a lady disguised and hidden away from any danger, as the dark colours represent evil its saying she is trying to scare away any possible danger, I liked the way the writer had described that because it really got me concentrated into the story and has built up tension the way he has described the appearance and actions of the character. That scene is very good as it describes a character changing the calm atmosphere into a dangerous, exciting atmosphere. The stairs that lead down to the opium den “golden bar” are worn and curved my constant use.

In the den there are flickering red lights from opium pipes and moans and groans from people who have been smoking the opium, Arthur Doyle describes the opium addicts as slaves to there addictions, and not being able to remember how they got there, when they got there and where they are. There is a part which describes the atmosphere with thick heavy air, it helps me imagine I am there because the can just seen shadows of bodies through the thick smoke. It is vividly described and allows me to create an image of what it could have been like.

Charles Dickens, “The Signal Man”, describes the location of the signal box as a dungeon, like he has been arrested and chucked away for life not being able to escape. He also describes the place as unpleasant and dark, as the steep rocky walls are blocking the light out which would make the area very damp and slimy “it was made through a clammy stone, that became oozier and wetter as I went down”, I think it is describing how you start off high on top of everything where its nice, sunny and warm, then as you get down into the lower level where the signal stop is it damp, dark and chilly.

On either side, a dripping wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip of sky; the perspective one way only a crooked prolongation of this dungeon”, I think this is describing how nice it is out of the valley then as you get deeper down it feels like a dungeon and you are being help captive. As the area is described as isolated, it would be the perfect place for something unknown to happen. The entrance to the tunnel is described as “a gloomy red light, and a gloomier entrance to a black tunnel” which the writer intends to tell the reader it is a path to death.

The author describes the setting of “the red room” to be set in a castle which is full of gothic elements, such large tables and chairs, and dark colours with large portraits on the walls. The ornaments in “The Red Room” itself all relate to deaths that may have occurred in the castle. H. G Wells tends to use the sense of sight to build up an image in your head to get an idea of what atmosphere is like in the story, which adds the affect of the setting again.

The writer of this story seems to express his feelings a lot more than the other writers, as he has described the passage in the castle as a long, draughty, subterranean passage, which builds up a clear image for the reader. The setting seems like it has someone watching every move that the character makes, with a spooky horrifying feeling. It may also feel very mysterious as there have been many deaths in the castle, because it is believed that when a spirit is around the room goes cold and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up along with lots of Goosebumps.

The atmosphere of the scene may be full of cool damp air, with a light breeze. This may make the characters in the story feel insecure and cold. The narrator expresses his feelings by using words such as quiver, which relates with the spook atmosphere in the story. In “The Man with the Twisted Lip”, Arthur Doyle re-creates the streets of London for the reader which should give them a good idea on how damp, dirty and smoggy they were back in the day when people just didn’t care and had no money to help make the area a better place.

Arthur Doyle has described the opium den superbly as he creates Sherlock Holmes and turns him into a disguised drug addict. The writer of “The Signal Man” is very clever how he creates the narrator to be a character. This course work I have taken part in has analysed three short Victorian stories, which where “the man with the twisted lip”, “the signal man” and “the red room”. Each story creates the setting, tension and atmosphere in there own ways which puts the readers in great suspense.

From looking back the writer of “the man with the twisted lip” creates his atmosphere by contrasting scenes, one minute they are at Dr Watson’s cosy relaxing house then they go to the opium den that is described on its appearance, “a long, low room, thick and heavy with brown opium smoke full of vile stupefying fumes”. “The red room” creates tension and atmosphere by using gothic elements then putting the supernatural actions into a castle to spook the reader out.

The writer from “the signal man” creates tension and setting and atmosphere by making one character that spends every day all day by closed in slimy rocky walls and making him think he is going make by making the bells vibrate and the other character “narrator” not being able to see it, also he makes the signal man see images of deaths that haven’t happened yet and he ends up getting drawn in by these visions and ends up getting killed. That was very well done by the writer as he has shown that there was no escape from these visions and he was only going to end up getting drawn in and killed.

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