Compare the techniques used to create tension and fear in the two stories "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens and "The Landlady" by Roald Dahl

Essay by ooberclaireHigh School, 11th gradeA+, April 2002

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The two stories 'The Signalman' and 'The Landlady' are quite similar in the techniques used to create tension and fear, but the stories can also be very different in places.

At the very start of each story, there are hints that lead to fear and tension. In 'The Signalman', there is a "glow of an angry sunset", which gives us an image of something that is hot, fierce, sinister, so we can build that up as the story continues. This also happens in 'The Landlady'. "But the air was deadly cold and the wind was like a flat blade of ice on his cheeks". This has a very similar effect on us. The word "deadly" suggests that the place is very eerie, and gloomy and the wind is described as a "flat blade of ice" - like the blade of a knife, it could kill someone, and so it fits with the word "deadly".

Each story is set in an unnatural time of day. Charles Dickens sets his story at sunset, when the sun is disappearing, leaving the eerie glow of the moon for light. Roald Dahl sets his story at night time, at about nine o'clock when real darkness starts to set in, in the winter. The actual places, however, are quite different to each other. In 'The Landlady', there is a bed and breakfast on a middle-class suburban housing estate that looks very normal and cosy from the outside. On the inside, however, there is a strange atmosphere that compels Billy to go in, he cannot control this feeling of compulsion, "Each word was like a large black eye staring at him, holding him, compelling him, forcing him to stay where he was…" so we know that he is now trapped in there. '...