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Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins write their stories deliberately creating an air of mystery and suspense. 'The Signalman' written by Charles Dickens is about a signalman

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Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins write their stories deliberately creating an air of mystery and suspense. 'The Signalman' written by Charles Dickens is about a signalman who works at a lonely station in an underground railway cutting who is haunted by a sceptre and other unknown supernatural forces that foretell of imminent doom. 'The Ostler' written by Wilkie Collins focuses on a person who looks after horses who seems at the beginning of the story to be disturbed by a nightmare vivid in his mind. Right at the beginning of the story we can see that the signalman isn't named he is referred to by pronoun only: 'When he heard a voice thus calling to him, he was standing at the door of his box.' Dickens adds yet more mystery at the start of the story in two subtle ways. Firstly he explains how the signalman looks down the line instead of up to where the narrator shouts: 'One would have thought, considering the nature of the ground that he could not have doubted from what quarter the came;' After the signalman looks down the line the narrator remarks about how 'There was something remarkable in his way of doing so' but he cannot 'for his life' figure out what. This subtle creation of mystery and suspense is twofold in the sense that the narrator talks about how the signalman reacts strangely to his call but he cant ascertain the reason for his strange behaviour. ...read more.


Dickens tops off this dark foreboding description by saying that he felt as if he 'had left the natural world' Writing about the station in this fashion sets the scene for un-natural or supernatural happenings. ``The setting of 'The Ostler' is different because the story takes place at different areas instead of sticking to the same place like 'The Signalman' but when Isaac does see the sceptre or 'woman of the dream' Wilkie Collins does set the scene writing: 'The bleak autumn wind was still blowing, and the solemn, monotonous, surging moan of it in the wood was dreary and awful to hear through the night silence.' So its night time, with a terrible howling wind in the background, which makes for a perfect setting for a supernatural event. Even today such settings are still used in horror movies. We see that 'The Ostler' and 'The Signalmen have two very different settings one can be seen as an opening to hell the other a typical modern day horror movie setting. The reader's suspense is maintained by the way Dickens gradually reveals the signalman's story. For example the reader has to wait until the second visit for the signalman's full story to be revealed thus keeping us in a state of anticipation. The same is true of 'The Ostler' Isaacs ordinary background and his unluckiness is gradually revealed in a way that Wilkie Collins lulls us into a false sense of security before drifting into the supernatural with his autumn setting and eventually vision of the sceptre. ...read more.


A mere poor signalman on this solitary station! Why not go to somebody with credit to be believed and power to act?' In 'The Ostler' Isaac suffers from premature ageing and has to live with the thought that the woman might return. Lastly the ending of the 'The Signalman' comes as a surprise to the reader because we come to find that the sceptre was foretelling of the signalmen's own death. This is rather ironic as before the sceptre warned of the death of other people but this time it warned of the death of the signalman himself. Dickens also creates a threefold coincidence in that the rail driver uses the same words and hand movements before he hits the signalman which are the same as the narrators right at the beginning of the story: 'that the warning of the engine-driver included, not only the words which the unfortunate signalman had repeated to me haunting him, but also the words, which I myself - not he- had attached, and that only in my own mind, to the gesticu- lation he had imitated.' The use of coincidence is less so in 'The Ostler' but the ending leaves us in perpetual suspense because we do not know if the woman will come back: 'She may be looking for him. Who can tell?' 'Who can tell!'said- I." ...read more.

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