In chapter 2 of A Tale of Two Cities, "The Mail," Charles Dickens describes a late night mail coach along the Dover road being interrupted by a rider who carries a message. Dickens uses a number of elements of the classic imagery used in thrillers and stories of suspense...
In chapter 2 of A Tale of Two Cities, "The Mail," Charles Dickens describes a late night mail coach along the Dover road being interrupted by a rider who carries a message. Dickens uses a number of elements of the classic imagery used in thrillers and stories of suspense to create a sense of impending danger. It's important to note that he sets up this atmosphere of foreboding in chapter 1, in which he talks about the dangers of highwaymen, or robbers, along the English roads. "Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies, took place in the capital itself every night..." Having prepared his readers with a description of the dangers of English roads at night, Dickens then zooms in on a particular scene in chapter 2 of a night coach on an English road. He then describes an ominous mist that makes it hard for the coachman and passengers to see.
There was a steaming mist in all the hollows, and it had roamed in its forlornness up the hill, like an evil spirit, seeking rest and finding none. A clammy and intensely cold mist, it made its slow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed and overspread one another, as the waves of an unwholesome sea might do.
Notice that Dickens deliberately chooses words that indicate fear and dread such as "forlornness," "like an evil spirit," and "unwholesome." The passengers who walk beside the coach are all wrapped up, apprehensive, and distrustful of each other, "for anyone on the road might be a robber or in league with robbers." Dickens goes on to write that "the guard suspected the passengers, the passengers suspected one another and the guard, they all suspected everybody else, and the coachman was sure of nothing but the horses."
You can imagine their terror when in the midst of this darkness, mist, and paranoia they hear the sound of a rider approaching. In the pause before the messenger identifies himself, Dickens writes that "the hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard."