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Consider how Dickens creates and maintains suspense in 'The Signalman'

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Introduction

Consider how Dickens creates and maintains suspense in 'The Signalman'. In this essay I will analyse and discuss on how Dickens creates and maintains suspense throughout 'The Signalman'. Charles Dickens wrote The Signalman, as at that time, 1866, trains were very new, and people were very afraid and superstitious of new things. Dickens wrote for his audience, he gave them what they wanted. He was involved in a train crash some time before he wrote The Signalman; this helped to make the accidents more genuine. ' The Signalman' in short is a cleverly written ghost story based on rationalism, superstition and the imaginings of a signalman, which Dickens weaves together in such a way that leaves the reader guessing up to the very last minute. ...read more.

Middle

Both these appealed to many people of the time, so Dickens probably wrote the story with this in mind. Charles Dickens' story 'The Signalman' is set along a lonely stretch of tracks leading to the mouth of a foreboding tunnel, where a signalman is visited by a passing traveller and he confesses to the traveller that his post is cursed by tragedies. The mouth of the tunnel is described as having 'barbarous, depressing and forbidding air'. The railway itself almost becomes a character in the story; Dickens managed to spot that there was something unusually eerie about this strange new mode of transport that roamed through the loneliest corners of the countryside. Dickens may have visited that eerie spot and realised how he could use it in combination with the frightening noise of a steam engine to create a mysterious ghost story. ...read more.

Conclusion

Throughout the story the signalman is convinced that the ghost (which only he can see) comes each time to warn of an imminent accident. The narrator comes across as a very composed character, which tries to reassure the signalman and understand his dilemma. Dickens opens the story with "Halloa! Below there." This short, but effective line becomes important as the story unfolds. We don't know who's speaking causing tension to be created from lack of background information. The man that the narrator is shouting to, below, looks round to face the tunnel "Looked down the line". Any normal person would look upwards in response to the call. Dickens is creating mystery, which builds up the tension and suspense. We learn the signalman is expecting to see the ghost every time the phrase "Halloa! Below there" is mentioned as this is the phrase the ghost uses before an immanent accident is about to occur. ...read more.

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