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AasimGalal GCSEEnglish

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Aasim Galal GCSE English The Signalman and Then Red Room are well known Examples of nineteenth-Century Ghost Stories. Write a Critical Comparison of These Two Stories. This essay will explore the similarities and differences between The Signalman (written in 1865) by Charles Dickens and The Red Room (written in 1894) by H G Wells. It will also explore the way tension is created; the pace of the stories; the strength and weaknesses (if any) and how the main characters are presented, and the narrative technique used to present the stories to the reader. It will also provide a detailed description of the settings and how they contribute to the effect of the stories. The Signalman and The Red Room are good examples of nineteenth-century ghost stories. They have achieved their purpose in creating suspense that grips so many readers. The Signalman occupies a lonesome and solitary post beside a railway line. It is a dark dismal place and it is towered by huge walls of rock stones, barring all view apart from a narrow strip of sky. The path to get down there is hazardous as it is cut through deep and precipitous stone that is wet and oozy. At first sight the narrator had many misgivings about the Signalman: There was something in the man that daunted me...as I perused the fixed eyes and the saturnine face, that this was a spirit, not a man. I have speculated since, whether they may have been infection in his mind. The signalman's physical and facial attributes help to add a sense of tension in the story. The signalman is described as a 'dark, sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows, fixed eyes, saturnine face. This sends a negative image to the reader who may become sceptical towards the Signalman. The first hint of tension in the story is when the narrator calls out to the signalman. ...read more.


From the opening lines of The Red Room, we notice that there are more than two people in the story, "I half suspected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house by their droning insistence". The opening scene of the story is rather grotesque. The characters present give a sense of fear and unease: The door creaked on its hinges as a second old man enters, more bent, more wrinkled, more aged even than the first. He supported himself by a single crutch, his eyes were covered by a shade, and his lower lip, half-averted, hung pale and pink from his decaying yellow teeth. A man with a withered arm and an old woman were also present. The narrator himself comments on the old people: I must confess I had scarce expected these grotesque custodians. There is to my mind something inhuman in senility, something crouching and atavistic; the human qualities seem to drop from old people insensibly day by day. The three of them made me feel uncomfortable, with their gaunt silences, their bent carriage, their evident unfriendliness to me and to one another. The narrator is very sceptical towards the three old people. It even leads him to speculate whether they are human or not. 'Their very existence was spectral'. If these old people render him uncomfortable, then his statement at the beginning of the story might not be true. If thee old people make him worried or scared then how is he to react when he sees a ghost? There is mention of haunted rooms. This is to apply interest, "if you will show me to this haunted room of yours". The repetition of a ghost by the old woman, adds tension to the story. Her words "this night of all nights!" promotes tension. Her words signify that something is about to happen to the man if he dares to go to the red room tonight. ...read more.


We could say that the spectre drew him closer to his own death by taking control of his mind. But in contrast with The Red Room we find that it wasn't the supernatural element that got hold of the narrator's mind, it was rather the fear and anticipation that did so. The beauty of The Signalman is that we have no idea what really happens. Dickens has left it for the reader to make his own conclusion about the death of the signalman and the purpose of him being haunted. Readers reading The Signalman or The Red Room at the present time may not experience the same level of anxiety and fear as people reading this story in the Victorian times. People now seem to dismiss the idea of ghosts and the supernatural whereas people of centuries ago may have well believed it. Then the story would have had a greater impact on them. The Red Room had more of an effect because Wells' superb vocabulary have reflected what it really would feel to be in the narrators position and his vivid descriptions have helped the reader grasp the story well. There is a touch of irony at the end of The Red Room. At the beginning of the story, the narrator looked down upon the three old people and he began to have many bad thoughts about them. But it is they who help the narrator at the end by patching him up and healing his wounds. You sense that the narrator has become similar to them in his physical state as he lays semi-unconscious with the old people at his side. The endings of both stories are in complete contrast to one another. As in The Signalman we have no idea about what really happens, whereas in The Red Room the reader knows the explanation, as the narrator is able to relive and recall what happens. Reading The Signalman can be somewhat puzzling at times whereas The Red Room is clear to understand. 1 ...read more.

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