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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 environments

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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 environments" Both of the short stories revolve around the supernatural and superstitious. Dickens and Hardy use these themes to help perceive and advance our understanding of the main characters and stimulate interest in the locations. They also these techniques to bring out the social settings and the local environments, portraying them in such a way that the reader feels as though they knows the places. They are also used to add to the setting and to help personify emotions and feelings of certain characters. The characters of the story help influence the supernatural feel of each. In "The Signalman" there are two main characters, the narrator and the signalman. We know very little about the narrator as we are told little about him or his background, just his thoughts and feelings at the time, although this does create an air of mystery and suspense around him. The signalman is very supernatural in himself. Adjectives such as "dark" are repeated and also the narrator's thoughts project the supernatural to the reader "there was something remarkable in his manner of doing so, though I could not have said for my life what". ...read more.

Middle

In "The Signalman" the setting is very dark and confining, vocabulary such as "barbarous, depressing, forbidding, crooked," all further involve the theme of the supernatural within the piece, adding to the isolated, ill feel of the piece. Emphasis is put on the supernatural from these adjectives being used frequently, the repetition of the word dark also helps convey the supernatural theme. In context, the railway cutting as an alien location for the Victorians at that time, as it was so new to them due to the industrial revolution having barely started so these things were not very common, it is a perfect setting for the supernatural and seems very hellish. Yet in "The Withered Arm", within the first chapter, it is in the countryside and the place has an idyllic feel, with the "eighty-cow dairy" "twilight"; a place that represents an old farm, with the sun setting in the background, is the picture made in the readers head. There is very little supernatural in the setting as the place is so ideal. It greatly contrasts with the dark, isolated home of the signalman. There is also a hint of realism within Hardy's story as the place is based on his old Wessex, this gives us a sense of location and a overall feel for the place. ...read more.

Conclusion

"The Signalman" is much more inclined to the supernatural, as we know very little about the narrator this adds to the mystery of the piece. Also the phrase "Halloa! Below there!" is heavily doused in the supernatural. These being the words that introduce you to the story but also the words recited by the ghost who warned him of the accident that would happen in the near future, and also by the train driver as he alerted the signalman of the speeding train towards him. The role of coincidence also features in both pieces although it is a lot more apparent "The Withered Arm". For example the discoloration on Gertrude's arm that Rhoda "fancied that she discerned in them the shape of her own four fingers", this could be highly coincidental as Rhoda may be imagining the fact the marks and her mind may be playing tricks on her. The theme of the supernatural is very apparent in both stories and used similarly by both authors although many different techniques are used. Although in "The Withered Arm" the supernatural is a lot more apparent to the reader, whereas in "The Signalman" there is more of an underlying tone, which can be picked out and interpreted in the way the reader wishes. ?? ?? ?? ?? Adam Hancox 10C ...read more.

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