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Compare how suspense is built up in 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens (1812-1879), and 'The Pit and the Pendulum' by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

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Alex Nash English Coursework 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens (1812-1879) 'The Pit and the Pendulum' by Edgar Allan Poe (1843) In this essay I will be focusing on the comparisons between the two horrific tales, 'The Signalman' written by Charles Dickens and 'The Pit and the Pendulum' written by Edgar Allan Poe, and by looking at these tales, will give me an idea of how suspense is built up. In the opening paragraph of 'The Signalman', suspense is built up immediately as the sense of sound adds confusion and many rhetorical questions are asked such as, who is calling? Why is he calling? What is he calling about? "Hallo, below there!" suggests this. This adds a lot of trepidation for the reader. When the signalman looks down to the tunnel, once again a lot of anticipation and puzzlement occurs. It makes the reader think why the signalman looks down to the tunnel, like something imaginary was supposed to be there. Then when a train comes past, the movement and sound are described as. 'A vague vibration in the earth and air'. There is an 'oncoming rush' from the narrator and I imagine its an 'oncoming rush' for the reader too. This adds to the sense of feelings, helping the reader to visualize the scene and therefore be more personally affected. Maybe something is going to occur when this train comes past. In the second paragraph on page 131, the narrator uses some words and phrases, which keeps the reader grasped. The narrator describes the feeling he has when he is making his way down to the train track to greet the signalman as 'the cutting was extremely deep and unusually precipitate', which means steep or uncontrolled. ...read more.


Immediately the colour of the face of the signalman turns colourless. A lot of confusion is happening at this point and the narrator still watches him. His sits up and walks towards the door fearfully and opens the door and looks towards the tunnel. I notice that he doesn't open the door wide open. What is there? He does this several times and a sense of fear is built up in the room and the readers mind. The thing I noticed is that the narrator doesn't mention a word about what was he looking for but in a way he minds his own business. You start to think whether the signalman is mentally insane or if something is playing with his mind. The narrator leaves the cabin to set on a journey home. He implies that he comes the next night to keep the signalman company. Maybe the signalman isn't insane, as the narrator must feel contented with meeting him again. The signalman tells the narrator that he shall share with him what troubles him when he meets him again (the next night) and the narrator agrees. At this point the reader will be very intrigued to read on to see what troubles the signalman and it will be a solution why the signalman had been acting so bizarre that day. As the signalman shows the narrator the pathway out with his torch the signalman says in a feeblish way not to call out when he is at the top of the hill and that when he is at the top "don't call out". The signalman makes it certain to the narrator not to call out. This builds suspense because there's a big reason why the signalman doesn't want the narrator to call out. ...read more.


We are made aware of the signalman torture as in the 1st paragraph of page 144 the signalman starts to get a bit desperate and could be going slightly insane again. He starts to give himself questions with no answers like, "why not tell me where the accident was to happen?" he is now starting to confuse himself. This adds to apprehension in the story. the narrator returns the next morning and finds the signalman is found face first down on the railway track as a train knocked him down. The narrator is extremely shocked by this by many reasons, one of which is a 'real man' standing in the exact place of the figure and showing the actions of which he used to try and get attention of the signalman. They were the exact actions of the figure that the signalman was talking about. I am pretty sure the signalman does believe now. Before the narrator finds out this, he notices a group of people on a railway line, which adds a lot of confusion to the narrator himself and the readers. As the narrator goes up to the men, the style of writing changes straight away. A lot more speech is used and a sense of panic is used. The death of the signalman is so shocking for the signalman he wants to know exactly what happens and factually demands what happened to him. "How did this happen!" implies this. The death is really chilling as if you think about it, the signalman was lured to his death by the figure, but maybe it was for his own good, maybe the figure was trying to save him from something. We don't really know. This increase the suspense rapidly as we are left in shock and wondering weather the signalman was a man tortured by a figure at the mouth of the tunnel. ...read more.

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