Tale of terror

Since this passage originates from a tale of terror, it will rely on certain techniques to attain a specific ambience based on that of fear and surprise. In an attempt to achieve this “shock-factor” effectively, the author endeavours to develop an eerie atmosphere particularly focusing on a sense of foreboding due to a fear of both the unknown and of the supernatural; the intention of which was to continuously increase suspense and tension until the final climax of the passage.

One major component the author uses to help add a sense of foreboding is symbolism. The boldly contrasting images of “the hands of Satan” and “deliverance… from Heaven”, which could be interpreted as symbolising a progressing conflict between a generalised good and evil, increases tension while also injecting a menacing sense of apprehension to the passage. Symbolism and contrast are used twice more throughout to continue to add to the already mounting levels of unease and suspense.

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The comfort given in the “three… ighted” candles, clashes boldly with an image of a “darkness” so “unsafe” it triggers the “poor girl” to send “her guardian” (and safety figure) out of the room, generating a paranormal string of events. This combination of light and dark and good and evil could be looked at even more broadly as symbols of life and death, perhaps suggesting a metaphorical explanation for the unclear ending of the extract, and ultimately Rose. The final division of symbolism and contrast is that of “shrieks” of sound and “death-like silence(s)”.

Striking transitions between the two help to effectively create a terrifying atmosphere, because in a novel where the narration is not omniscient and the reader cannot therefore be everywhere (in this case the enclosure of the “unhappy girl(‘s)” room), we must focus our attention on other given information – sound – to help conjure an image of the unseen. As well as sound playing an important part within this passage, movement carries an equally significant role.

The frequent references to movement quickens the pace of the extract and attaches a sense of urgency, for example, Rose is described as having “sprang from (her) bed” before having “darted after” her uncle “to detain him”. Another example of an intense period of urgency within the passage occurs soon after “the door… closed violently” which “divided the two rooms” leaving Rose isolated in one, an action to which Schalken responded by “rush(ing) to the door”. Atmosphere is also built up extremely effectively by the author’s use of bold imagery, which often includes amplification in the form of repetition (“… pplied every energy and strained every nerve… “) and onomatopoeia (“… the window… grated upon the sill… “) for further emphasis. Stereotypical imagery of the gothic horror tradition is used (“… a sudden gust of air blew out the candle… “) once more adding to the contrasting light/dark images and emphasising the atmospheric sense of evil. The author uses two other techniques to add to the eerie atmosphere of the passage: direct speech and the use of both short paragraphs and even shorted sentences.

After three paragraphs explaining how two men had struggled to enter Rose’s room and finally succeeded, one of the most important climaxes of the extract is reached: we should find out what has happened to Rose in the room, but instead we find that “It was empty”. Suspense is taken to, arguably, its maximum level at this point because of that short, sharp and shocking line. But the final line – “No trace of Rose was ever after discovered” – a completely detached paragraph, with no mention of sound or movement ends the passage full of suspense and unknowing.

The passage is also full of aggression shown through prominent, active verbs such as “exclaimed”, “shrieked”, “strained”, “burst”, “despairing”, “agonized” and “closed violently”. This violence, again, adds urgency, increases tension and effectively contributes to an atmosphere where all is not as it seems. The theme of the supernatural and fear of the unknown is also carried throughout the passage, from the beginning where we hear of Rose lying as one “in the hands of Satan” to the shriek “of despairing terror” that was scarcely human” and the “death-like silence” that followed.

The third person narrative technique used, adds to the tension in the atmosphere effectively built up, firstly by directly addressing the reader (“that our readers may distinctly understand… “) and drawing them into the passage and then by excluding the reader and forcing him to become an “external applicant” so our urge to discover what has become of Rose is pushed as far as it can be.

This entire extract works on the theory that “the darkness is unsafe” ~ ultimately that the unseen is “unsafe”, and by not allowing the reader to find out exactly what has happened to Rose there is an air of mystery, and room for interpretation, which arguably makes the terror this extract was pushing for, more terrifying. The narration does, on several occasions, give the opportunity for direct speech to occur.

By allowing us, as the reader, to see what the characters are feeling (“O God! Do not go, dear uncle! ) the impact of the events that will follow are made increasingly more important and again, suspense levels are increased. This technique has not been overused and therefore, when we are able to see what a character is saying, the effect is even more powerful. When combining these numerous techniques the effectiveness of the passage based on a tale of terror is extremely effective when considering what it set out to achieve. A fear of the unknown and unseen was fashioned throughout with the intention of creating an ending full of suspense and mystery, and this has been achieved.