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During my essay I am going to discuss how Charles Dickens creates tension throughout "The Signalman".

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Introduction

During my essay I am going to discuss how Charles Dickens creates tension throughout "The Signalman". Dickens establishes effective methods using setting & character throughout the story to create expectation & tension. The story is told in first person narrative, this is effective and continuously creates expectation as the reader feels more involved with the story. We are told this is a gothic story by the introduction to the dark, foreboding atmosphere at the immediate beginning of the story. The setting is described as "clammy", "solitary" & "dismal" and is at one stage compared to a "dungeon". This vocabulary is used right throughout the story and plays an important role towards mystery, constant expectation and a sense of mystery. At the beginning, Dickens uses direct speech to attract the reader's attention with the visitor quoting the phrase "Halloa Bellow there!" ...read more.

Middle

The two men have not even met, however already the visitor presumes he can tell what the signalman sees in him. "There was something in the man that daunted me". At this point, both men presume the other to be a ghost. In the next paragraph, Dickens again uses supernatural activity, however this causes confusion, which creates tension to the reader. The visitor is quoted saying, "That light was part of his charge? Was it not?" as the signalman is then quoted saying, in a low voice "Don't you know it is?". These confusing, supernatural effective phrases often occur throughout the story. The reader does not pick up on them, so they merely ignore it. "The monstrous thought came into my mind as I perused the fixed eyes and the saturnine face that this was a spirit, not a man" This is the first point in the story Dickens directly uses the term "Spirit". ...read more.

Conclusion

Here, Dickens again reminds us of the setting and atmosphere, pushing forwards words such as "grave", "dark" and "fire", reinforcing expectation and building up tension to a breaking point. "It is very difficult to impart sir. It is very, very difficult to speak of. If even you make me another visit, I will try to tell you". Here, there is repetition of difficulty for the signalman to explain his troubles to the visitor. Why is this so difficult for the signalman? Here, Dickens uses suspense in both the reader and the visitor's perspective. This suspension creates enormous tension, as the information the reader possesses is immediately delayed. On page 11, the signalman asks the visitor that when he returns, "Do NOT call out". The signalman questions why the visitor used the exact words "Halloa Below there!" and asks "You had no feeling that they were conveyed to you in any supernatural way". The visitor simply replies no and then leaves. Why does the visitor have no question against the suggestion of supernatural activity? ...read more.

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