The Signalman and The Monkeys Paw are carefully constructed stories
- Pages: 7
- Word count: 1706
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These stories contain a lot of suspense and create a lot of pictures in the minds of the readers. Both ‘The Monkeys Paw’ and ‘The Signalman’ are both well thought out well-constructed stories. They contain many methods that are designed to keep the reader interested and eager to know what is about to happen. Without the correct use of these methods the book would become predictable and boring.
One of the methods used to gain the readers attention in ‘The Signalman’ is the dropping of subtle hints of what is about to happen. In the case of ‘The Signalman’ this would be the three appearances the specter makes. The appearance of the specter creates questions like ‘Why is he appearing?’ and ‘what does he want?’
The specter gives hints of impending doom for the signalman but the question how then pops into the mind of the reader. The signalman tells the narrator that he has seen him before and the words ‘Halloa below there’ he has heard before too. Also when the narrator calls to the signalman from the top of the hillside he looks in the opposite direction at the red light instead of at the narrator. This causes many question to come into the mind of the reader like ‘why does the signalman think that he has seen and heard the narrator before? ‘And why does the narrator chose those words to get the attention of the signalman?’
It’s the answers to these kinds of questions that keep the reader reading and interested in the story. All of the above points are designed to capture the imagination of the reader and to feed the reader with questions that he feels require an answer therefore encouraging him to read on.
Dickens also grabs our attention by setting the story in a dark setting designed to make us think that something is going to go wrong. It is a dark setting with bits of supernatural activity thrown in to make a mix. The signalman is on his own in a valley cut off from the outside world. This kind of story line and setting keeps people on the edge of their seat. If this book was set in broad daylight in the middle of a happy little village it wouldn’t have the same effect.
Dickens also uses ‘creepy’ words to make the atmosphere a little more supernatural. He uses words like ‘dungeon, gloomy, gloomier, black tunnel, barbarous, depressing, and forbidding.
The two times that the narrator meets the signalman are at dusk and late at night. These are ‘eerie’ times of day and help to create a form of suspense and expectation about what is about to happen. These types of settings are designed to make the readers imagination take over and create images in the head.
Also the way the signalman tells of past experiences with the specter provokes supernatural and strange images to come into the mind of the reader. He starts his one story ‘One moon lit night’ this itself starts the reader thinking before the story has been told. You immediately think that this is going to be a strange tale. He then continues the story making it seem supernatural and eerie by using sentences like ‘resisting the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine’ and ‘a disagreeable shudder crept over me.’
These sentences help to continue the sense of something sinister and not of this world. You know something bad will happen but are not sure what. Its this kind of tension that Dickens is trying to create. This tension mixed with suspense is what keeps the reader interested.
This calamity that is going to happen isn’t even doubted by the signalman himself. He even says himself ‘Some dreadful calamity will happen….it is not to be doubted.’ This makes the reader determined to find out what is going to happen.
Dickens here has managed to draw the reader into the book and make him want to find out what is going to happen. Dickens has started by planting the seeds at the beginning of the book to start the reader asking what is going to happen next and from their has let the seeds grow. He has managed through the thoughts of the narrator and the recollections of the signalman create an eerie, supernatural setting and a sense of impending doom. The reader is pretty sure the signalman will have an accident but is never sure how until the very end.
Because of the way this story has been crafted it keeps the reader guessing and therefore interested until the very end. Dickens has completed his goal of sustain the readers interest by using the above strategies. Dickens obviously planned this out and thought about what to tell the reader. This is a well thought, out well planned, and well-written story.
W.W Jacobs uses some of the same methods as dickens in his book ‘The Monkeys Paw.’ He starts off his story by telling the readers about a happy family that are living in a cozy little house. The farther mother and son live in the same house and play chess and take the Mickey out of each other. This cozy setting that W.W Jacobs has put us into makes us wonder what could possibly go wrong?
Than while all these happy things are going on around the family Mr. White the farther says ‘I shouldn’t think he’ll come tonight.’
This sentence sparks off lots of questions in the reader like, who is not coming tonight? Why does the farther chose to mention this now? Are they afraid of this mans visit?
Again Jacobs is creating these questions for the sake of keeping the reader interested. With these particular questions he has made an aurora of suspense around the visiting of this stranger.
Eventually this stranger arrives and brings with him a monkey’s paw, which is what the book takes its name form. This visitor is a soldier has been serving in India. He got this paw from an old Indian Fakir and it grants three whishes. After we are told all of this or imagination is stimulated. The reader will start to think, what would I do with three wishes? Why has this man just come and offered it to them?
The author here has now brought in the supernatural part of this book. The supernatural is fascinating and not understood much by anyone. Jacobs is playing with primitive superstitions that all humans have. Everyone wonders if there is life after death and if there are really ghosts. The edition of the Fakir helps to give in that mystical, evil touch.
The soldier then tells us about the paw being evil and how people have suffered from wishing from it. HE says thing like ‘the first man had his three wishes. I don’t know what the first two where but the third was for death. And also ‘it has caused enough mischief already.’
The soldier here has told the family about all the good thing it could do and got them interested in it. He then tells them that it is evil and that no good will come from whishing from it.
I don’t understand why the soldier has done this unless he wants to get rid of the paw. He builds up and plays with their imagination so that the farther eventually picks up the monkeys paw of the fire. Now that the farther has it he is warned to be careful with it.
The first wish that the White family make is for two hundred pounds. This is seen to be a sensible whish. Two hundred pounds is a lot in those days but not a fortune. When nothing happens immediately ‘except the closing of the finger on the monkeys paw Mrs. White makes the comment ‘I guess all old soldiers are the same.’ The family believe it to be a fake and that the soldier was probably lying to them.
The farther and son even make fun of the monkeys paw by saying ‘how could whishes be granted in these days? And if they could, how could two hundred pounds hurt you?’ There was a reply from the son ‘it might drop on your head from the sky!’
The next day they are told that there son is dead by a person working for the train station. They are given two hundred pounds in compensation.
When the reader is told this, the answer to the question, is the paw really evil is answered. After being told this mother is distraught and starts to cry. Then all of a sudden she bends over and kisses the cheek of Mr. White.
The question why? Now comes into the head of the reader. She explains how there are two whishes left. The author builds up the tension before the cold wish by saying ‘his brow cold with sweat’ and ‘that he may bring his mutilated son back.’
Mr. White makes the whish and the talisman moves again. The author now builds up the tension quickly and fast. He tells us how they are sat there waiting when they here a quiet knock on the door. Mr. White excuses it as a rat but Mrs. White knows it is her son. As she goes up to answer the door and unbolt it, Mr. White is down on his knees trying to find the paw to wish away his dead son.
The tension and suspense has now been built up to a very high level. The reader is waiting to know what will happen and if Mr. White will get there before Mrs. White. In the end he does and when she opens the door all she finds is thin air.
This story started off quiet slow with not much happening. This soon changed toward the end of the story where the pace was quickened a lot. This book was well written and thought out. The tension was built up as the story continued and the readers all got questions in their minds. This story in my view is a well-constructed one and satisfies the reader’s interests well.
W.W Jacobs has used many tactics to gain the reader’s interest and they have all worked. He likes to put questions into the mind of the reader and change the pace of the book. This is another successful short story.