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

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Introduction

Compare the two short stories, "The Signalman" by Dickens and "The Withered Arm" by Hardy. The story of "The Signalman" opens with the words "Halloa! Below there", this short, but effective line is very significant to the plot of the story. A questioning atmosphere is already created, as it is not clear to the reader as to who is speaking, or whom the anonymous figure is being shouted at? The opening paragraph of the "The Signalman" is unexplained, leaving the readers questioning. For example when the Narrator is shouting from above, the Signalman behaves strangely as he looks round to face the tunnel, whereas a normal person would look upwards in response to this. Dickens portrayal of the "black tunnel" that has a "barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air" to it creates a mood of anticipation. Moreover, the words expressed are so effective that the reader immediately gets an apparent image of the tunnel and feels more involved in the story. It also raises the question as to why the Signalman looked down there, and this maintains the curiosity. The mood becomes more intense and penetrating as Charles Dickens's explanations give the impression that one or both of the characters might be spectres. The reason being, that the Narrator considers the Signalman as having something "remarkable in his manner", and how he cannot say for his "life what." On the other hand, the signalman appears to be afraid of the Narrator, as his reactions to the Narrator calling down suggests that he regards him to be the spectre. ...read more.

Middle

Due to these problems, both women connect well, and the readers begin to feel sorry for both of them, especially Rhoda as she is finds herself in a problematic circumstance. When her friend becomes increasingly desperate for a cure, and decides to visit Trendle and requires her help. She fears the loss of a good friend, as she thinks that she has exercised "malignant" powers on Gertrude. However, because Rhoda is so overwhelmed by the sweetness and comforting attitude of Gertrude, she decides to go with her. As she wishes to give the "innocent young thing...her blessing and not her curse." The characters are key factors in creating interest towards the supernatural happenings. Especially, the Signalman, who acts in a strange manner, which adds a great deal of tension in the mood. In "The Signalman" there are only three major characters; these are the narrator, signalman and the spectre. However, there are additional characters at the end; this is effective because the characters emerge strongly. The signalman appears to be an important character, from the start. The reason being that he is well described by Dickens, as being a "sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows." Also there is detailed explanation of his torment, for example, Dickens talks about his "mental torture" and him being "depressed beyond endurance." As a result of the character being tormented; the readers begin to feel nervous, and more interested about him. Contrasting to the narrator, there is mystery to the Signalman's character that begins to make the readers question and have concerns about his distinctiveness. ...read more.

Conclusion

The plot of the two stories differ in some aspects, diverse to "The Signalman"; "The Withered Arm" contains a lot of deceiving lies. For instance, Farmer Lodge not informing his new wife, of his affair with Rhoda. Gertrude not being informed of her step son, and her lying to her husband about the healing of her arm. The end of the story of "The Signalman" exposes all the expectations of the reader, as it was thought that the signalman would save or be the hero of the third accident. The suspense and expectations are ended, as it is realised that the signalman was actually the victim of the accident. Analysing, both ghost stories, I consider both stories equally interesting to read. "The Signalman" was full of anticipation, as Dickens left the reader behind with a lot of unanswered questions, leaving the readers in mystery. However, I believe that the signalman's death could have been prevented, the reason being that if the narrator had not associated himself with the man, then this would not have happened. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable to read, as Dickens used descriptive language, when describing the scenery, for example: "Unnatural valley", "Blackness of the tunnel", "Vague Vibration" "The Withered Arm", too, consisted of many features which resulted in a successful story, for instance the characters, the strange plot and the withering of the arm. Moreover, it was interesting as Thomas Hardy used many different language effects. He used similes and metaphor, to describe Gertrude, "her face as comely as live dolls." In addition, the ending of the story was also very effective, as it answered many questions, like Rhoda not being a witch; moreover it concluded the lies told by the characters. ...read more.

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