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Comparing two texts - Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl and The Signalman by Charles Dickens.

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Emma-Louise Bailey 11C GCSE Coursework Assignment Comparing Two Texts Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl and The Signalman by Charles Dickens In this assignment I will be looking at two stories from this century and the last. I will examine the similarities and differences between them in content, style and language and I will talk about how the writers' backgrounds influenced their stories and their way of writing. The opening page of both of the stories creates a mood. In Lamb to the Slaughter Dahl carefully chooses words to create a relaxing atmosphere, "warm clean, fresh, smiling, blissful, rested, silent". All of these words create a tranquil, cosy environment. The choices of his words created an effect on me when I was reading, and therefore felt I should be very quiet, and whisper whilst I was reading the opening page. From reading page one of Lamb to the Slaughter I gathered a picture in my mind of what was to going to come. My expectation of the story was that it would have a happy ending. This was down to the opening page of the story and how Dahl set a peaceful and comfortable scene. However, when reading page one of Charles Dickens' story, The Signalman, I soon gained an all-together different expectation of what was to come. Dickens' used words such as, "steep, trench, angry, violent, pulsation, rapid, clammy". These choices of words help to create a dark, and dangerous mood. "there came a vague vibration in the earth and air, quickly changing into a violent pulsation, and an oncoming rush that caused me to start back, as though it had force to pull me down". This phrase was very effective in the first page of the story, as it quickly helped to create a negative mood. When reading the opening page of The Signalman, I almost felt as if I should hold my breath in fear of being heard. ...read more.


We know that she did visit Sam, the Greengrocer but we are still concerned that her plan will be exposed. "when you come tomorrow night, don't call out!" This line highlights the tension and we want to find out why the narrator is forbidden to call out. We are held in suspense until the following night when the Signalman will reveal his tale. The two lines, one from Lamb to the Slaughter, and one from The Signalman differ. This is because we already know what Mary has done; we are just waiting for her to be caught. However, we want to know what the Signalman has to say to the narrator, as this is initially where the story will really begin. Lamb to the Slaughter is written in the third person, in contrast, The Signalman is written in the first. By writing the stories in different view-points we are able to compare the effectiveness that each will create for the reader. In Lamb to the Slaughter writing in the third hand makes us believe that it is a tale, a story, perhaps. When Dickens writes The Signalman we almost believe that it is a true story, an account of a past experience and it creates much more tension for the reader. The structure of Dahl's story is chronological, (date order). Each event follows on from the one before, following Mary's reactions to her husband's news, to her movements. This lulls the reader into a false sense of security as we begin to believe that the tone will be consistent through-out. When the readers are reading The Signalman they are forced to be open-minded. This is because right from the beginning they are prepared for the unexpected. Nothing seems to happen as it should, nor in the right order, as the character of the signalman refers to previous events constantly. This forces the readers to go back in time with the storyteller. ...read more.


The Signalman is an apt title for Dickens' story, as in the tale, the Signalman isn't in control. Instead he sees too much and although "no man in England knew his work better" he was incapable of signalling correctly. Lamb to the Slaughter is a much more intriguing title for a short story. It leaves so much to the imagination and readers feel they want to know more about the plot line; however, The Signalman is a much more gripping read. Throughout the story readers' want to find out more about the Signalman's story, and it constantly leaves the readers in suspense, which adds to the excitement of the story. In conclusion, I feel that The Signalman was more compelling to read. The storyline was more stimulating and kept the readers attention far better than Lamb to the Slaughter. However, Dahl used much easier language which made reading Lamb to the Slaughter far more enjoyable. The words were more modern and more suitable for my age group. Dickens' used such words as, "furled, gesticulating, asunder, vehemence, transverse and dint". By using these words it made the story harder to read. He wrote, "It was the mental torture of a conscientious man, oppressed beyond endurance by an unintelligible responsibility involving life". This is far too complicated for light reading, which may put more people off reading and enjoying it. Lamb to the Slaughter was an enjoyable read as I felt I could relax whilst reading it. This is where it contrasts with Dickens, The Signalman. At the time of initially comparing both stories I preferred Lamb to the Slaughter, as it seemed to relate more to everyday life and was easier to picture as I knew what many of the things were. Items that were mentioned in The Signalman were unknown to me; therefore I didn't completely understand their meaning and relevance in the story. My choice of overall preference lies on the fact that The Signalman was more exhilarating and the twist in the tale was greater in shock and surprise. 1 ...read more.

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