• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Compare the two short stories, 'The Signalman' by Dickens and 'The Withered Arm by Hardy.

Extracts from this document...


Compare the two short stories, 'The Signalman' by Dickens and 'The Withered Arm by Hardy. 'The Signalman' and 'The Withered Arm', are two short stories showing supernatural events. Authors, Dickens, and Hardy intrigue readers by using certain techniques. These techniques add suspense and mystery to the story, which makes the reader, want to read further on. The openings in both narratives begin with a short dialogue. The dialogue in 'The Signalman' begins with the narrator talking to the Signalman: "Halloa! Below there!" This throws the readers into action and engages them into the story. It introduces them to the characters. The setting of the place is one of an eerie atmosphere. It hints that something unnatural and ominous will occur. The setting is described as a dreary and hostile place. It creates an image of a dangerous and "barbarous place". The opening of 'The Signalman leaves the readers engrossed in the story by creating a mysterious plot. In the opening, we are introduced to the two characters. The characters remain nameless which ties the reader into the plot and therefore makes the reader thrilled, wanting to find out about the identities of the characters. From the outset of the story, Dickens creates a sense of mystery that startles readers. The strange behaviour of the Signalman creates tension and raises mysterious questions such as, why is he behaving in an unusual way? The opening of 'The Withered Arm, is written in such a way to engage the reader from the beginning of the story. Like 'The Signalman', 'The Withered Arm' aims to throw the reader into action by using dialogue. Thomas Hardy uses dialogue between employees who are working on the dairy farm. In this conversation, we also learn about the main characters before they are involved in the plot; "Tis hard for she". During the introduction to the story, there is also a brief description of the setting. ...read more.


The characters in 'The Signalman' are left unidentified. The two main characters are the signalman and the narrator. The signalman's role in the story is to signal when trains come through the tunnel and make sure the railway tracks are safe. His role suggests he is responsible. He has been given this job because he is "one of the safest men to employ". Throughout the story, the signalman is referred to by his profession. This is where most of his life has gone by. He is a lonely man. We know from the story that the signalman was a student of natural philosophy and attended lectures. He was a well-educated person but "went off the rails". By misusing his opportunities, he is now paying for his past. The signalman believes in the supernatural and is frightened about an event that happened in the past. He seems very cautious and paranoid about something. E.g., He is always looking at the red light. He seems very worried as he always keeps a lookout on trains and gets very irritated by the narrator speaking to him. His behaviour is strange and peculiar; he asks why the narrator said "Halloa! Below there!" The actions of the narrator connect to his past and the supernatural visions of the ghost warning him about danger. The narrator is however, a completely different character. He is an educated man. The narrator does not believe in the supernatural and argues his case by explaining the existence of the supernatural through logical reasoning. He thinks the signalman is strange and unusual; "...there was something in the man that daunted me". He feels uncomfortable and quite suspicious of his behaviour. He is ill at ease and judges the signalman before even knowing him properly. The narrator disagrees with the signalman about the existence of the supernatural. He concludes very quickly thinking his views are right; "I showed him how that figure must be a deception of his sense of sight." ...read more.


Friendship is shown between Gertrude and Rhoda. Their friendship is based on deceit and there is always an element of jealousy, Rhoda being envious of Gertrude. At first Gertrude seems to trust Rhoda. Rhoda offers her support to Gertrude and becomes close to her. However, she inflicts pain on Gertrude. When she finds who the 'enemy' is, she refers Rhoda to 'Satan'. However, Gertrude also inflicts pain on Rhoda, by using her son's blood as a remedy to cur her arm. At the end of the story, she becomes the 'enemy' as she uses her son's death. This shows a cycle of betrayal and shows irony as Gertrude refers to Rhoda as her enemy but then also becomes an enemy of Rhoda. The endings of both stories are also very similar. They both have a 'twist in the tale'. In 'The Signalman', there is a sudden death of the signalman, which is foretold by the ghost. Similarly in 'The Withered Arm', there is the execution of Rhoda's son. Both these events are unpredictable because they occur but readers are not warned about them. The ending in 'The Signalman' shows the narrator to claim that the signalman's death is a "coincidence". This shows that readers are expected to make a decision for themselves whether they believe in the existence of the supernatural. Whereas in 'The Withered Arm', the death of Gertrude shows that, she is killed by a remedy and shows that it is an unexplained event. Both of these events are unexplained which shows that they are similar to each other and the question of supernatural powers arises. Readers are left to make up their own mind about whether they want to believe in the existence of the supernatural or whether they choose not to. These stories are both different. 'The Signalman' is a ghost story and the atmosphere and the ghost figures reveal this. This tells readers instantly that supernatural events are likely to occur. However, 'The Withered Arm', is set in a calm atmosphere so readers do not expect mysterious events to occur. Hema Pindolia ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Signalman section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Signalman essays

  1. The Signalman and The Yellow Wall Paper

    When the narrator could not 'describe the thrill that seized upon' him when close at the mouth of the tunnel he 'saw the appearance of a man, with his left sleeve across his eyes, passionately waving his right arm', we will then understand that the signalman's visions were all valid, thus creating a sense of horror.

  2. The Signalman

    The man has the same reactions when he hears about the second ghost. "Deception of his sense of sight". You have the same time to make a decision as he does, but you already know there will be a ghost.

  1. The Old Nurse(TM)s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell and The Signalman by Charles ...

    So we are left waiting for this to happen but do not know whom it will be. I have noticed that both stories end with someone dying. However, there is a twist in the narrative because we expect that there will be deaths of certain characters but in fact it is not these characters at all.

  2. The Judges House and The Signalman Comparison

    very stereotypical way, with the protagonist in the story dying and the spirit or ghost in the story living on.

  1. "In his short story 'The Signalman' by what means does the author Charles Dickens ...

    He also warned him of his own death, but unfortunately the signalman was unable to interpret it.coff ffr seffffw orff ffk inff foff ff. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the two main characters, the narrator and the signalman.

  2. Comparing Two Ghost Stories, The Woman in Black and The Signalman.

    The first time he sees her is during the funeral of Mrs. Drablow. The ghost sits at the back of the church, which is when the narrator first notices her. He describes her as a young-looking woman, with a 'wasting disease' and a pale face with eyes 'sunken back into her head'.

  1. In this essay, the openings of the four short stories, "The Signalman" by Charles ...

    This in itself makes the reader feel extremely uncomfortable and claustrophobic. However, the setting suddenly changes as the reader is thrust into a false sense of security by the description of the Bed and Breakfast. 'There was a bright fire burning on the hearth' for instance, appeals strongly to the

  2. Examine how the theme of isolation and the supernatural are explored in 'The signalman', ...

    your face frightens me. Come in to the fire". This shows how his mother cares for him and he knows that he can go to his mother for anything. Further on in the story it states that Isaac had not had a girlfriend in 35 years showing his isolation and lack of friends.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work