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Discuss how suspense is created in the ghost story "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens

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Discuss how suspense is created in the ghost story "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens In this essay I am going to examine how Charles Dickens creates suspense. Written during Victorian times, Dickens wrote the piece after being personally involved in a train crash. The Signalman is themed over the gothic supernatural and The Industrial Revolution. The Signalman is about a signalman who foretells different accidents and events on his line. Later he foretells something far more sinister. The piece was at the time when Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley. The Signalman opens in the first person. This immediately creates suspense not just through the person its wrote by the words used these being: "Halloa Below there" The person who shouts this is the narrator. With the reader not knowing what's going on it causes natural apprehension. At this early stage we do not know which of the men, if any are ghosts, as they have not verbally interacted with each other. When the narrator does call to the Signalman he only reacts physically not verbally: "He looked up without replying" This creates a mood of great tension for the reader, as they don't know what is about to happen. ...read more.


So he was stuck in his job as a signalman. The Signalman takes his job very seriously he has to. The travellers lives are in his hands so he would do all his jobs then carry on talking with the narrator: "Remaining silent until what he had to do was done" This shows the signalman really does care when he is doing his job. The signalman's manner is one of caring, fear and intelligence. This fear is his evident fear of the bell: "Turned his head to the bell when it did not ring" This shows the first bit of sinister activity from the signalman. This creates tension for the reader. This bit of madness is also picked up by the narrator. The fear of the bell plays a significant role within the story. The signalman has numerous conversations with the narrator. The first being the one where the signalman tells the narrator he use to be "contented but is now a man of trouble: ".... But I am troubled sir, I am troubled." This immediately shows he's distressed and creates suspense for the reader, as they want to know what is troubling the signalman. ...read more.


We as readers now feel he is the mysterious wise old man. "Men of common sense did not allow for coincidence in making the ordinary calculations of life" This shows the narrator is an intelligent man of logic who thinks with common sense. After hearing of the recent ghost he is evidently scared and disturbed. So after much deliberation the signalman agrees to accompany him to a physicist. So the narrator leaves and the signalman, in his absence dies after being mowed down by a train. In my opinion the narrator becomes wiser. There is a certain twist in the tale that the signalman's prediction was actually a premonition of his own death as he told the narrator the exact words the train driver said after he had mowed the signalman down: "Below there! Look out! Look out! For gods sake clear the way" We can therefore see how Dickens created suspense and tension in "The Signalman" These devices ranged from suspense through the characters actions to the swapping of the views (First and Third) I think "The Signalman" is a bit dull compared to today's literature for example Philip Pullmans Dark Materials. It was written 100 years ago and the language and expectations of today's readers have obviously changed. The End. Daniel Pearce 1 ...read more.

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