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Setting the Atmosphere in The Cask of Amontillado, The Masque of the Red Death and Pickman’s Model and The Lottery

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  1. Introduction
  2. The opening scene of Montresor
  3. Fortunato's screams
  4. The extent of the external atmosphere
  5. The general idea that humans are afraid of death
  6. Causing the orchestra to stop mid-performance
  7. Lovecraft: An atmosphere, of the external world and of the mind
  8. Conclusion

?It was a dark and stormy night?? Classic, word-of-mouth horror stories begin with this line. What is it about the ?dark and stormy night? that should cause us, the reader, to feel anxiety and fear about the story about to be told? Horror stories cannot begin without a sense of mood and atmosphere. There must be a sense of foreboding, of terror imbedded in the atmosphere, to cause the reader to flip the pages with wide eyes and fear stricken urgency. Describing the atmosphere plays a key part in horror stories; the author creates a place, a setting, a mood that scares us and yet, intrigues our curiosity of the elements. Although we are afraid, we want to experience aspects of terror. ?It was a dark and stormy night?? sets the mood for the story and establishes an atmosphere that will allow the horrifying, terrifying, and even improbable events to unfold.

[...] From the fourth [wall] the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth forming at one point a mound of some size? (Horrorscape, 5). This atmosphere is harrowing because it describes an undesirable place to visit; the air is so foul that the torch flame cannot brightly illuminate the dark crypt; the walls are littered with human bones and some rest in a mound some size?. Only Poe could make such an ugly classification beautiful through his prose. [...]


[...] The atmosphere going to, and of the workspace, is within a more classical definition of the term. long after this Pickman produced a flashlight and revealed an antediluvian ten-paneled door that looked damnably worm-eaten. Unlocking it, he ushered me into a barren hallway with what was once splendid dark- oak paneling simple, of course, but thrillingly suggestive of the times of Andros and Phipps and the Witchcraft? (102). The passage describes the setting leading to Pickman's workspace. The ?antediluvian? door and ?dark-oak paneling suggestive of the Witchcraft? shows that wherever his space is, it is indeed fitted with markings of an ancient past. [...]


[...] Jackson begins describing the familiarity in what we believe is the idea of a small town; a bright and sunny day, flowers blossoming and rich, green grass. Slowly, the author breaks down the bright, picturesque town leaving us with a more unsettling town in which we define as ?peaceful?. By the end of the story, as Mrs. Hutchinson screams out that isn't the reader understands that, beneath the surface of the small town lurks a sinister force. Now, when you drive through a small town, with barns and open expanses of land, and residents on their front porch enjoying the day and the easy, small town life, you wonder if there is something behind that vacant stare some secret that tradition breeds and a force you cannot comprehend. [...]

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