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Compare and contrast the ways in which Dickens and Hardy use superstitious beliefs and supernatural elements to present and develop their main characters in their social settings and local environment

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the ways in which Dickens and Hardy use superstitious beliefs and supernatural elements to present and develop their main characters in their social settings and local environment Paul Jannece "Halloa, below there!"- this straightforward and seemingly innocuous introduction to the stranger, who becomes entangled within the complexities of the signalman's eventful life, is one that we have heard several times throughout the tale. Dickens has, however, over the course of the story, altered the significance of this line. At the commencement of the story, the manner in which this exclamation is received may lead the reader to believe that the signalman is, in fact, the spectre. But we later learn that it is the spirit himself that will use this line. By repeating the same three words, Dickens has imprinted them in our minds and therefore enabled us to see the irony of them when reflecting upon the happenings leading to the untimely death of the signalman. In The Withered Arm, however, we are not presented with a recurring line, but a repeated sense of sincerity. Hardy has made each of the characters to sound very common and poorly educated ("He do bring home his bride"), though this is not the case with Rhoda Brook. ...read more.

Middle

When the stranger appears, he speaks with great confidence and enthusiasm, suggesting that he has been brought up surrounded by many people of different cultures, and now he has entered this life of solitude. He is filled with curiosity as he repeatedly questions the tasks set before the signalman and then requesting a second visit, so that he may learn more. The signalman, however, seems very drawn back and quiet, partially due to his fear of the stranger but also due to his solitary lifestyle. This severe contrast in characters allows the audience to assume that the stranger is a typical person, meaning that the signalman stands out as a more abnormal element of the story. Rhoda Brook, from The Withered Arm, has also adopted this sense of curiosity, as seen in a rapidly spoken discussion with her son concerning the appearance of Gertrude: "Well, did you see her?"/ "Yes; quite plain"/ "Is she ladylike?", etc. Both Rhoda and the stranger are developed in the same way: both ask a string of questions at the person toward whom their inquisitiveness is based upon, only becoming contented when finding a blemish with their "subject": Rhoda is delighted to discover how short Gertrude is whereas ...read more.

Conclusion

In the Signalman, though the nature of the spirit is clear, it's reasons for making itself known are highly unobvious. In the Withered Arm, our attention is driven directly to the dream which Rhoda envisions. This is a declaration of abnormality, and we are able to make accurate decisions, regarding the author's intentions, about what we are supposed to believe. In conclusion, I feel that both Dickens and Hardy have equally unique, though equally powerful methods of communication when discussing the aspects of the uncanny. Both authors, through styles of their own, have allowed us to broaden our acceptance of what is possible. Personally, I feel that Hardy was the more successful of the two, due to his presentation of the consequences as well as showing the power to be true, unlike Dickens, who's tale is likely to confuse the reader depending upon their own interpretation skills. Hardy has enhanced our visualisation by showing the effects on the other characters, as well as the subject of the ill-doing. By doing this, he has also altered the setting from a pleasant, countryside scene, to a dark, dismal and overpowering environment. This has harsh effects on Gertrude, as we are shown that her beauty is dismissed before she had even begun to scratch the surface of the shell of self-contempt. ...read more.

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