How does Doyle build tension in chapter 10 of The Sign of Four?

Doyle builds tension in chapter 10 of The Sign of the Four through Holmes's short, declarative sentences and his telling Watson to bring a gun as they set out on an adventure. Doyle also uses Watson's limited perspective about what is to occur to provide a sense of uncertainty that heightens the tension.

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An energy starts to build in the opening of this climatic, dramatic chapter as Watson describes Holmes speaking with a "nervous exaltation." This unusual "gaiety" is quickly followed by Holmes telling Watson they must be "off" and asking, "Have you a pistol, Watson?"

Holmes's excitement and the question about the pistol builds tension, as the reader now expects a conflict. We anticipate violence, and yet are uncertain about what is about to happen, both of which put us on alert.

This is where Watson's role as first-person narrator comes in handy. We only experience the story through him, and at this point, he has no more idea than we do what Holmes's plan is. We have little choice but to follow after the great detective as Watson does, without information, waiting expectantly to see what will unfold.

Doyle uses short, declarative sentences from Holmes to pick up the pace of the scene and to build a sense of tension as Holmes tells Watson to take his gun:

You had best take it, then. It is...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 963 words.)

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