Choose a novel or short story which builds up to a climax. By referring to appropriate techniques, show how the writer builds up to the climax



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Choose a novel or short story which builds up to a climax.

By referring to appropriate techniques, show how the writer builds up to the climax

National 5

“The Lighthouse” by Agnes Owens is a short story which builds up to a climax. To build up to this climax Owens uses characterisation, setting and foreshadowing. “The Lighthouse” is set on a beach where Megan (aged 10) and Bobby (aged 3) have been left unsupervised by their mother. However4, Megan decides to leave the beach to visit a lighthouse. On their way there they meet a dangerous man in a grey tracksuit who will take the opportunity to kill Megan and abduct Bobby.

The first way Owens builds the story up to a climax is through characterisation. Megan is shown to be in conflict with her brother Bobby. She tells him “you can stay here if you like … but I’m going and I just hope that a monster doesn’t get you.” She controls Bobby by trying to threaten and scare him with “a monster”. This “monster” foreshadows the climax of the story when a man in a grey tracksuit will kill Megan and abduct Bobby. She also says “if you don’t start moving I’ll slap your face.” The word “slap” shows that violence will be a major part of the climax. Therefore characterisation is an important technique in building the story to a climax.

Another way Owens builds the story to a climax is by using setting. The story begins on “a beach” a place where their mother has left them. They decide to leave the beach and the danger begins. “Let’s go to the lighthouse” Megan suggests. You would expect this to begin an adventure story but instead it becomes dangerous. They climb dunes onto a golf course “stretching for miles with nobody on it” which suggests an isolated and lonely place which is dangerous for children. This danger builds to a climax when in this lonely place they meet a man “in a grey tracksuit”. The colour grey tells us that he didn’t look suspicious and that you never know who the dangerous people are. Therefore setting is also important in building up the climax.

A final way Owens builds the story to a climax is by using foreshadowing. At the most dangerous point in the story when Megan and Bobby have separated Megan goes back to find Bobby. At this point she hears “the cries of seagulls”. The writer uses the pathetic fallacy to add an atmosphere of danger. We are also told “the sea was stormy now with the waves lashing over the rocks”. Again the pathetic fallacy is used to show the reader through the words “storm” and “lashing” that we have reached a violent climax with the grey man “hovering” over Bobby like a bird of prey ready for the kill. Therefore foreshadowing is effectively used to build the climax of the story.

Megan now realises the danger and is “galvanised into taking some kind of action” the word choice “galvanised” suggests that she is in shock and that her actions are sudden. In her rush she slips on seaweed and hits the back of her head on a rock. The story then moves to its horrific climax when the man in grey neglects his responsibilities and rather than helping Megan he “put his hand over her mouth and nose and held it there for a considerable time.” He then drags Bobby who “protests” all the way, “his cries died down when they vanished over the top.” The word choice “cries died down” and “vanished” suggests that he too was murdered.

The story therefore concludes with both children vanishing. Bobby vanishes with the man in grey and Megan’s body sinks into the sand and disappears. Even in death the children are neglected: “no one came by that day and in the evening when the sun went down she was gone with the tide.” The man in grey should have looked after the children instead he neglects them and satisfies his own desires.



In summary, “The Lighthouse” is a powerful story with a powerful climax. The characterisation of the siblings being too young to be left on a beach creates immediate concern. The conflict between them builds up tension in the story and the introduction of a menacing man in grey helps to build up to the terrible climax of the terrible murder of two children in what should have been a place of enjoyment and safety.

To sum up, Owens uses characterisation of Megan to suggest a conflict, setting to suggest a dangerous isolated place and foreshadowing to give hints about the violent climax. These literary techniques make “The Lighthouse” a short story which builds up to an exciting climax.


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