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ENGLISH COURSEWORK ESSAY QUESTION: COMPARE THE SIGNALMAN BY CHARLES DICKENS AND THE RED ROOM BY H.G WELLS EXAMINING HOW THE WRITERS CREATE TENSION AND SUSPENSE IN THEIR STORIES. 'To be denied of information as a reader is far more powerful than to know the truth.' In this assignment I will be looking at the two short stories written in the 1800's: "The Red Room" by H.G.Wells where a man goes into an apparently haunted room and although he is warned by other old characters he does not listen and the tension builds up as he goes into the room where fear gets the better of him in a room which might not be haunted in the end. The other short story is "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens. In The signalman a man lives separated from the real world living a lonely life as a signal man at a train station and thinks he might be being visited by a spectre. I will examine the similarities and differences between them in content, style and language and I will say something about the influences of the writers' backgrounds and will be comparing how each story creates suspense and tension within them. Both stories fit in to the Gothic genre with different elements associated with the conventions of a gothic genre. The gothic genre of stories was brought to life in 1764 with Horace Walpole's 'The Castle of Otranto' during the Victorian ages. It included the classic conventions in the setting, atmosphere and story line mainly to create an effect of suspense, tension and mystery used in the gothic genre since then. The Red Room is the more typical Gothic genre and Wells makes it clear how ancient and old fashioned everything is in the castle and includes spiral staircases, secret passages, a suspected ghost haunted room and an eerie atmosphere. Gothic literature attempts to terrify the reader and it nearly always involves the supernatural. ...read more.


Also by the way he talks you can tell he is a well-spoken and well educated man. In "The Signalman" you learn that the signal man is quite a well learned man, he 'Worked at fractions and decimals'. This asks the question if he was well educated and is a clever man why did he end up working in the railway lines. He is also a very skilled workman 'Safest of men to be employed'. These questions add mystery to his identity which therefore builds up the suspense. When the narrator talks with the signalman, the signalman keeps looking out towards the tunnel. So you don't know what's there or what's going to happen. The signal man is a very lonely man who hardly sees any one from the outside world this could make him slightly crazy and hilusinative; this sustains an edginess tension to him. He tells the narrator in their first meeting that he is 'troubled' this makes the reader think what troubles he has and could it be to do with his weird actions previously, and what will happen next. This also builds suspense. The setting is an integral part of any gothic novel. There are both similarities and differences in the type of settings the writers have chosen for their stories and Dickens has gone for a more contemporary setting where as Wells tried to capture the settings of the typical gothic genre novel. The setting in the red room is typical of a Victorian ghost story. It is set in a dilapidated and derelict castle. The old people who inhabit the place cannot use most of it to live in because they are afraid of the 'red room'. This keeps them well away from that section of the castle creating mystery towards the room. The old people can be looked at as part of the setting; they're weird with a sense of decay and death about them making the narrator feel uncomfortable and edgy with them. ...read more.


He describes it as it happens which adds suspense. You also go through the events with him and emphasize with him as he plays a big role in the story. I think the first person perspective is even more effective in the red room because the narrator plays a larger role story and the main events which create suspense and tension and the fear and panic involved with his actions are expressed to the reader. Both writers share common ground in trying to keep the reader in suspense in their stories but some investigation of historical, social and cultural backgrounds help show why each writer made his particular choice of setting and story line. The Signalman was written before The Red Room in 1860 and at the time the railway was a recent invention just beginning to expand around the country: it was new and inventive technology. This gives Dickens' story a very contemporary touch. References to steam trains and the idea of every small, obscure signal box in the country being permanently manually operated gives a sense of historical context to readers today. There is also a very Victorian idea about how the classes are divided up, it is very noticeable to the narrator that this signalman is too educated to be such a low rank in society without some kind of explanation. It is important to recognise how Dickens chose to combine the old idea of the supernatural with a modern railway setting was unexpected and extraordinary. He was most likely influenced by the fact that in 1865 he had been involved in a railway accident. He was traveling to London by train when it derailed at high speed, killing ten people and injuring many more. He wrote "The Signalman" a year later. The Red Room was written in 1894. Wells made his choices in its contents and setting deliberately adding a timeless quality to it. In contrast to Dickens he did not want his story to be closely linked to the time period it was written in, so that he could 'explore the ageless nature of fear itself'. ...read more.

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