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Discuss how Dickens creates suspense in the short story The Signalman

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I have been asked to "Discuss how Dickens creates suspense in the short story The Signalman". The signalman is set in a small dark valley where a man's job is to control and maintain a section of rail track. It is a very lonely job as most of the time he is isolated away society. His only communication between him self and others is via Morse code to the next section of track, or quickly talking to passing train drivers. He was provided with a very small one roomed hut next to the track for sleeping and operating the controls. The first bit of suspense Dickens creates is at the beginning where the narrator calls down to the signalman and I given no reply even though the signalman acknowledges the narrator. "Is there any path by which I can come down and speak to you? He looked up at me without replying" The next quotation I am going to use explains how solitary his position was. ...read more.


For example - he closed the door (to keep out the unhealthy moisture). Later in the story Dickens adds the signalman explaining to the narrator why it is that he is scared of the narrator shouting "helloa bellow there". It is because the signalman had seen a person or spirit standing beneath the red light near to the tunnel's mouth shouting "helloa bellow there" before on a number of occasions, every time this had happened an incident had taken place on his stretch of line. This makes me understand why the signalman was fearful of the narrator when they first met, and why he chose to ignore him when shouting down to him. The best descriptive paragraph in the story is as follows: - " I resumed my downward way, and, stepping out upon the level of the railroad and drawing nearer to him, saw that he was a dark sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows. ...read more.


The conversation with the signalman also heightens the suspense. Short one line question and answers leaves the reader needing to know the full story. As the story unfolds and more information is passed on, the reader begins to draw his or her own conclusions, however the full picture is never quite clear, again building suspense When the narrator could think of nothing to say his mouth was "very dry". Dickens uses these phrases to build suspense "He bit his under lip as though he was some what unwilling" is another example Once the story has been revealed the question of what the sceptre is trying to warn of is tackled. Here Dickens continually uses the word danger. In two short paragraphs beginning "what is it warning against" he uses the word danger six times. The narrator leaves the Signalman but leaves us in no doubt doing so troubles him. The suspense is heightened on his return as the man "with his left sleeve across his face" appears. The dash down "the notched path" brings the suspense to a climax before the final twist is revealed. Bradley Morgan ...read more.

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