Over the following coursework I am going to decide which of the two stories I prefer. The stories are The Monkeys Paw, and The Signalman. I am going to analyse features such as: unexpected things happening, a twist in the plot, mystery characters and coincidence. Most horror stories that I have read use the features that have been listed above. Personally I prefer the signalman.
The Monkeys Paw is a horror story that involves a sergeant-major coming back from India. When we actually sergeant-major we find out he got a monkeys paw form a fakir in India, and the fakir made it grant 3 men 3 wishes. “He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it”. However each wish will bring a bad coincidence, as the fakir only did this to show that it’s dangerous to alter fait. Personally this sounds too much like a fairy tale, and is therefore not believable. The first two of the three men have had their wishes, one was a man whose last wish was for death, and the second was the sergeant-major. The third man who wishes with the paw is Mr White, the father of the family we follow. Mr White first wishes for ï¿½200.
While he was wishing this the rest of the family are just mocking it, and assuming that it is not going to come. “His father smiling shamefully at his own credulity…” The money does come, but it is in the form of compensation for the son being caught at his work. The next wish was for the son to come back to life. Mr White only wished this as his wife forced him to in the middle of the night. The wife then thought that it didn’t work as nothing had happened. Later that night the two are awoken by a knocking at the front door. Mrs White assumes it her son, who has just walked the 2 miles from the cemetery. The father doesn’t know what it is, but thinks it is their son, but he would still be mangled from being caught in the machinery. We are never actually told the last wish, but from the last bit of the story it sounds like he wish what was at the door to go away.
When we hear about The Monkeys Paw we do not believe it. This is because it is so un-realistic and magical, and most people do not believe in magic. However, as the story is going so much like a fairy tale, we expect the money to turn up strait away. The money then doesn’t turn up, and this is not expected, which the reader to read on. When the money does eventually appear, it is the form of compensation for the son being killed in the machine. “His dry lips shaped the words ‘How much?’ ‘Two hundred pounds’ was the answer.” This is also un expected, as after no money turns up we stop expecting it to. This I think makes it more horrific, and better as a horror book. However that is the only unexpected thing that happens, so that make the rest of the book quite dull.
In The Monkeys Paw there a two twists, the first is the setting. At the start of the book we expect the setting to be dark, gloomy and scary, this is not the case, the setting is the front room of a house in a village. “Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnum Villa the binds where drawn and the fire burnet brightly” The other is the sergeant major. When he is being described we think of him as a strict person, like the stereotypical sergeant major, but he isn’t, he is just like any other person. These twist the story as we are expecting a horrific place and large frightening men, but this can be more horrific, as we see friendly people most days, and go into living rooms most days. This means we are more frightened of the things we see in everyday lives.
In The Monkeys Paw there are two mystery characters, in the beginning sergeant major Morris and the person coming to say about the Herbert’s death. The sergeant major is a mystery character as in the beginning, we do not really know much about him. Before he comes all we know is that he is just got back from Africa, he is a sergeant major, and he is coming round to the White’s house. This encourages us to read on to find out who he is. The person coming round about Herbert’s death is a mystery character as we don’t know much about them, also when we meet him he is not very explicit about why he is here, or who he is.
Another feature of The Monkeys Paw is the setting, The Monkeys Paw uses a very ordinary place as a setting, the front room, and this actually adds fear as we use front rooms most days. “Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnum Villa the binds where drawn and the fire burnet brightly” This is scary as each time we are in the front room we are reminded of The Monkeys Paw. In The Monkeys Paw the setting is not a key feature, as it could happen anywhere. This is shown by not having much description about the setting.
Another way in which horror is created is through co-incidence. We are not actually told The Monkeys Paw wishes came true, so there is always a thought in the back of my mind asking if the monkeys paw caused Herbert to get caught in the machinery, or was it just chance. The same is for the other two wishes.
The Signalman is a horror story about Charles Dickens talking to a signalman in a cutting along a railway line. The signalman can only see up or down the line from his signal box which creates horror as we feel being boxed in. we soon find out that the signalman keeps seeing a spectre who stands next to the tunnel entrance and shouts “helloa belowa” which creates horror as those are the exact same words Charles Dickens shouts to the signalman, and the engine driver shouts at the end. The spectre also shouts “For god’s sake clear the way”. We are also told that every time the spectre appears someone dies. At the end of the story we art told that the signalman was killed by an engine running him over, while the driver was shouting “helloa belowa, for god’s sake clear the way”. This is horrific as the spectre, Dickens, and the train driver all use the same words.
The Signalman is fareley realistic, seeing ghosts is a bit farfetched, but it could have been imagination. What makes it more horrific is that the spectre, train driver, and Dickens all say exactly the same thing.
There are not many points where Dickens uses the unexpected thing happening to create horror. One of the ways he does this is by the signal man dieing at the end. “As the engine came out of the tunnel, his back was towards her, and she cut him down.” This creates horror as we do not expect it to happen, and it shocks us. Another way Dickens creates horror through the unexpected is by people dieing on the train after the signalman sees the spectre. This is horrific as it relates to us; it could be us on the first train after the spectre is seen.
Another way Dickens creates horror is by having a twist in the plot. There are two twists, one is the spectre, this is a twist as we do not expect it, and after we do hear about it we still are not sure if it actually exists, or if the signalman is making things up. The other twist is they way someone dies just after the spectre is seen. This creates horror as people travel on trains a lot, and the story is talking about people dieing on trains seemingly randomly, which creates horror as it could be us next. “Within six hours after the Appearance, the memorial accident happened on this line…”
Another way Dickens creates horror is by using a mystery character, in The Signalman there are two mystery characters, the first is the Signalman, we do not know much about him like his name. This is horrific as we don’t know him, and most people are afraid of the unknown, as for all we know he could be a psycho killer trying to get Dickens inside so he can kill him. The other twist is the spectre, we do not know who, what, or why it is appearing, we do not even know if it is real, or if the signalman is making it up. This is scary as we don’t know what it is, and so we are afraid of it.”…looked towards the red light, and saw the spectre again.”
The setting of the signalman is in a deep cutting in a hillside, with a railway and a signal box in it. This means you can only see up or down the track, which would give off the impression of being boxed in. the cutting is described as a prison, and the tunnel is the entrance to hell. This creates fear as people feel in secure and frightened of being corned and trapped, and that is what the cutting is making people think. This shows it as an oppressive place and most of the story happens here, which keeps enforcing it into our minds that it is a very frightening place. “that it struck a chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.”
Another way in which Dickens creates horror is by the use of coincidence. There is one main coincidence in The Signalman; this is that the train driver, spectre, and Dickens all use the exact same wording when calling the signalman. “I said, “below there! Look out! Look out! For gods sake clear the way!” I started.” This is why when dickens calls the signalman the signalman looks towards the tunnel, and when the train is coming towards the signalman at the end the signalman just ignores it thinking it’s the spectre. This adds horror as it if all saying exactly the same wording is unlikely, and seems almost planned. Another way it is horrific is that if than train driver used different wording the signalman may not have been killed by that train.
Overall I prefer the signalman as it is more believable and realistic; however the monkeys paw has simpler words and is easier to understand than the signalman. But I still think the signalman is a better horror story.