The Mad Dog Extract How does Harper Lee create mood and atmosphere? Harper Lee starts to create the tense mood straight from the offset. In the very first sentence she uses alliteration of the letter ‘d’ in the words ‘deadly’ and ‘deserted’. The length of the first couple of sentences have and effect on the mood as most of them are very short, the short sentence length I think adds drama to the extract and adds tension to the atmosphere. Another tension building Harper Lee uses in the first paragraph is the detail she goes into to describe the scene and what everyone person is doing at that moment in time.
For example ‘ I heard Mr. Tate sniff, then blow his nose. I saw him shift his gun to the crook of his arm’. This use of excessive detail adds apprehension as the readers are waiting for something to happen. Sibilance is used also in the first paragraph, words like ‘still’ and ‘silent’ are used. These words are also used to emphasize how quite everything is at this moment and the repetition of words like these add to the atmosphere and the feeling that everything is going in slow motion. Adverbs like slowly are used to describe the way the characters are speaking at the start of the extract.
The adverbs are tools to add to the anxious atmosphere and again highlight the stillness of the moment and the apprehension of the characters speaking. Metaphors such as ‘we could see him shier like a horse shredding flies’ are used to help us picture the scene of the dog better and help the readers to understand what is wrong with the dog. The pace of the first half of the extract is very slow and cautious this is made clear by the author using phrases like ‘inching him towards us’ and ‘being pulled gradually towards us’. These phrases really help to create the tense and anxious mood.
Harper Lee helps to keep the readers on the edge of their seats and keep the mood interesting by completely changing the pace of novel very suddenly. At the begging the pace is very slow and the dog is described to be walking at a ‘snail’s pace’ then it suddenly changes to panic and excitement when the dog nears closer. There is confusion over who is to shoot the dog and when it is decided that Atticus must do the deed, the pace moves quickly. The author shows this by making everyone start to talk to each other and shout as well as the description of Atticus walking ‘quickly’ to kill the dog.
The characters shouting is shown by the writers use of exclamation marks such as ‘look where he is! Miss and you’ll go straight into the Radley House! ’ Verbs like ‘crawl’ are used in the first part of the extract to emphasize how slowly time is going and how slow everything is happening. This completely contrasts how the character’s move as the dog moves closer. Onomatopoeic words like ‘cracked’ are used to add stress to the extract and also to shock the readers as all the word’s leading up to the shooting have been soft and gentle. So the sudden use of the word ‘cracked’ leaves the mood shocked and the readers more interested and engaged.