The Kit bag by Algernon Blackwood

Topics: Dracula

We have examined how various methods of constructing tension are applied within each extract. Atmosphere and setting have the most effect on creating fear although the choice of storyteller and the holding back of information also subtly adds uneasiness in the reader. Another important factor is the description of characters and their actions. In each of these stories isolation and darkness are key factors. In Dracula Jonathan Harker is not only isolated from civilisation but also within the castle since there are so many doors but they are all ‘locked and bolted’.

From the day Harker arrives in the ‘gloom’ he begins to live a nocturnal life, he wakes ‘late in the day’ and goes to bed as ‘warm grey of quickening sky’ appears. The reader is made to visualise a dark force changing Harker’s character and lifestyle without being given any specific detail. This leads to imagination and the reader bringing their own personal fears/interpretation into the novel.

The castle itself, a major role in the story, is almost brought to life in an eerie malevolent way.

The castle has a constant dim appearance, in the 1900’s electricity had not been well known and light bulbs did not exist so there were many lamps in the castle. The lamps were very mysterious because the flame burned without oxygen; ‘there wasn’t a chimney or a globe’. Flickering lamps cast shadows, which helps invent a spooky atmosphere. Harker begins to lose his mind as time goes on and he realises that he is a ‘veritable prisoner’ and with no help ‘as far as the eye can see’.

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Set in London, The Kit bag has been written so well that even though Johnson is in the middle of London he seems completely isolated.

‘His voice echoed down in to the dark vault’, as his voice echoes we have an image of somewhere big, again darkness is emphasised. Vaults are for storing valuables in but here Johnson is inside the vault and is trapped, with no sign of life apart from the mysterious sounds of an unknown being. The Monkeys Paw, does not really create a typical gothic atmosphere because even thought they live far out there are three people and inside the house has a ‘brightly’ burning fire. Setting is aided by the description of characters, we have a very detailed description of Dracula and of his behaviour.

The Count’s first appearance is an original gothic image, all ‘clad in black from head to foot without a speck of colour’. He had a natural pale face, which has a dead-like semblance. Harker picks up on Dracula’s abnormality but chooses to ignore many of the signs, as he is impressed with the kind hospitality offered by the Count. One of the most tense scenes between Dracula and Harker is when he recoils with ‘horrible feeling of nausea’ as he smells blood on Dracula’s breath. Harker ‘doubts’ and has ‘fears’ of what Dracula really is but the ‘strange things’ that he thinks, he ‘dares not confess’ to himself.

The Kit bag creates the best setting, as a trial for one of the most ‘brutal and cold-blooded murders of recent years’ has just occurred. When Johnson returns home he imagines the ‘face of John Turk, the murderer’ on his kit bag. We never actually see the person who owns the stealthy tread. The whole scenario could be in Johnson’s mind as we see mostly his point of view. All three writers withhold vital information to create tension. In Dracula the tension is maintained throughout the whole extract, it does not use the anticlimax but only slightly mounts and drops the suspense.

This is not always the case as shown in the Kit bag, we are lead to believe there is another being in Johnson’s room, ‘clear as life in the merciless glare of the electric light, stood the figure of John Turk’. The merciless glare of the light completely contradicts the safety of the ‘merciful darkness’ that Johnson was in before, here it shows that by revealing partial information; who was in the room, it created more tension. In conclusion I think that Dracula is best at creating tension due to its detailed descriptions, and because we only see one point of view so we never know what Dracula is thinking.

This has an air of mystery as it leaves many questions unanswered until the very end. Then everything begins to unravel and we realise there are no servants, and the coach man was in fact Dracula himself. The Kit bag is very psychological and we never find out what made the bag move, whether it was all a dream or if it was real. There are many anticlimaxes during the piece of writing as well as having a lot of peak points of tension, this captures the readers attention throughout the writing.

The Monkeys Paw is not very good at mounting tension because it lacked serious detail and we can relate the accidents as coincidences. With Dracula and the Kit bag there is some realism about the stories and what is unbelievable like the existence of ghosts or vampires is still unknown to us today. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Bram Stoker section.

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The Kit bag by Algernon Blackwood. (2017, Nov 20). Retrieved from

The Kit bag by Algernon Blackwood
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