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Compare ""The Signalman"" by Charles Dickens and ""The Darkness Out There"" by Penelope Lively. Show

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Compare ""The Signalman"" by Charles Dickens and ""The Darkness Out There"" by Penelope Lively. Show how each writer creates a story of surprise, revelation, mystery and tension. How does each writer demonstrate he/she understands its contemporary audience. In this essay I will be looking at two different short stories from two different authors. "The Signalman", by Charles Dickens was written in the Victorian era when the audience it was intended for had a great interest in the supernatural and, ""The Darkness Out There"" by Penelope Lively, which was written post World War Two. When looking at a short story we have to acknowledge the limitations of the genre. One limitation is the difficulty to fit a lot of information into them and so it is common for them to only have a few characters. We can see this in "The Signalman", which has two main characters and "The Darkness Out There" where there are only three main characters. Readers also see little irrelevant descriptions and progression of characters is swift. In "The Signalman", it is the signalman who Charles Dickens really focus' upon. While the traveller is used by Dickens as a vehicle to narrate and carry the story along. We also see Penelope Lively do this with Sandra in "The Darkness Out There". She uses Sandra to begin the story by explaining about Packer's End, and then this narration is continued through the rest of the story. We know short stories are usually quite complicated. This is mainly because the writers have to find ways of adding as much detail description and focus on events as possible, and great attention is given to the setting. This device can be seen in both "The Signalman" and "The Darkness Out There", as the settings are depicted in great detail to help build up suspense, interest and tension. Nowadays this can be difficult, as television has altered our outlook towards tension building in books. ...read more.


We also see from the initial meeting of the signalman, the traveller thought that he might have been a ghost because of the way the traveller introduced himself, "The monstrous came into my mind as I perused the fixed eyes saturnine face, that this was a spirit, not a man" The mention of imortal beings help create the tension As the story goes on we do however see the signalman's character develop into a professional man. We find out he was an educated man but "ran wild" at university, so was expelled. "A student of natural philosophy, and attended lectures, but had run wild, misused his opportunities, gone down and never risen again" We also find he has other qualities as we see he is reliable and dutiful. We see this when he stops in mid sentence to carry out his duties on the line. "I observed him to be remarkably exact and vigilant, breaking of his discourse at a syllable, and remaining until what he had to do was done" This leads us to believe the traveller became impressed and interested by the signalman. Through the signalman's haunting we can also see other sides of him, we see he has a lot of fear, of the haunting. We can especially see this in his language in following his long conversation with the visitor, "What is the danger? Where is the danger?" These short sharp sentences show the fear in the signalman. We could also see this when the traveller introduces him self, as this is where we get the first hints of the Signalman's instability and fear. He believes he has seen the traveller before and when asked where "He pointed to the red light he had looked at, there" We know the Signalman is showing fear at this point as he speaks in a "low voice". Also how Dickens describes the signalman's reaction shows fear, " I detected in his eyes some latent fear of me." ...read more.


The time the story was set also influenced the way Mrs Rutter was represented, as a lot of people held similar views. We can also see that the way Sandra and Kerry were represented was affected by the time the story was set. This is mainly because we can see some typical gender roles of that time. Such as, Sandra wanting to work in the textiles and Kerry wanting to work as a mechanic. In "The Signalman" we see the signalman being a very professional, dutiful character which also typical of the time in which the story was written, as that was a common attitude Victorian people had to work. After looking at the two books, I think "The Signalman" comes across as the better story. One thing I particularly liked about "The Signalman" was its use of language and interesting descriptions, "And the gloomier entrance to the tunnel, in whose massive architecture there was a barbarous, depressing and forbidding air" Also I enjoyed the subtlety of the clues such as how danger was drawing closer to the signalman, and the use of a mystery traveller to help lead the story along. I think it was the more interesting out of the two and has a controversial ending unlike "The Darkness out There". This is because I found it very linear and I thought there was no real tension or surprise as today's morals and views all suggest what Mrs Rutter did was wrong, and everyone one would realise it. The two stories build up suspicion and tension in similar ways by having the audience asking questions, which is a very effective tool to build up tension. Also both stories have contrast, "The Signalman" shows it between the world above and the world below, and "The Darkness Out There" between light and dark. However they do differ in some areas, "The Darkness Out There" concentrates on psychology, and the idea that we judge and stereotype on appearances. "The Signalman" however has little moral to the story and is rather self-explanatory in the psychological sense. ...read more.

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