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Comparison of How it happened and The Signalman

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Comparison of How it happened and The Signalman The atmosphere in How it happened is full of mystery and energy. The plot moves very quickly, imitating the speed of the automobile as in the story it is said the automobile has a horse power of thirty, 'Then I remember the big motor, with its glaring headlights and litter of polished brass, waiting for me outside. It was my thirty-horse-power Robur, which had only been delivered that day.' It also emphasises the lack of control the driver has over it. Whereas the atmosphere in The Signalman creates both suspense and mystery. The appearances of the spirit help to create suspense as we anticipate them to lead us to the climax. However, we find out at the end of the story that the signalman was getting premonitions of his own death. The appearances are really red herrings as it is the signalman himself who dies. Whereas the biggest red herring in How it happened is how the narrator speaks from memory in the first person, fooling us into believing he must still be alive. This makes the twist at the end so much more powerful. The difference of experience between the first time reader, who is fooled into believing the narrator must still be alive and the 2nd time reader who is able to pick out things that are ironic, for example, ' I can live it again.' ...read more.


The themes in The Signalman include death, the supernatural and reason. Dickens sometimes uses the convention of quotation marks and sometimes does not. This reflects the contrasts of rationality and supernatural goings on. The narrator tries to give reasons to the visions that the signalman has, yet the final image of the story is of the narrator seeing the image of the signalman and the ghost himself. Dickens cleverly manipulates tension to give the final image the haunting effect. Whereas in How it happened, Arthur Conan Doyle was an apparent rationalist and he believed that after your death, you could continue to live on as a spirit. It was also believed that these spirits could communicate with the living through people known as 'mediums'. This belief is present in the story where the narrator has survived his death in order to tell us how it happened. This idea is given more credit when we know that the story originally started with the line, 'This story was told to me by a medium'. The story How it happened was written in 1918 and involves a high-powered automobile. This suggests to us the story must have been written about the present at the time. It is also set in London. ...read more.


The narrator gains a ghostly aspect at the end, when we find out he is dead, and this introduces the idea of Spiritualism that is key to the story. Whereas the narrative voice in The Signalman is also in the first person and we find that until the end of the story we are not sure if we can totally trust it. This is because of the ambiguities in the description of things as well as the lack of information about the narrator himself. But we can tell the visitor is a sceptic. He chooses not to believe that the bell was rung by a ghost without proof. 'I caught at that. Did it ring your bell yesterday evening when I was here, and you went to the door?' As readers, we side with the sceptic. The skill of the story is that most people will not agree the bell rang without sound. There is also an additional piece of irony, the sceptic doesn't believe in the ghost but he says the same things the ghost said like 'Halloa!' Although he does tell us that he is 'a man who had been shut up within narrow limits' until 'at last set free'. But it is difficult to understand this because we don't know if he's referring metaphorically to something else or talking as if he has spent a long time in prison. ?? ?? ?? ?? Miruna Narendradasan 8/10/11 11-2 ...read more.

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