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Examining how tension and suspense are created in two short stories - The Signalman and Lamb to the Slaughter

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Tim Hole Wider Reading We will be examining how tension and suspense are created in two short stories. I will analyse the use of language, setting, characters and plot to see where tension has been created for he reader. We are looking at 'The Signalman', which is a pre-1990 Dickens' story and 'Lamb to the Slaughter', a more modern story written by Roal Dahl. Charles Dickens would have written 'The Signalman' for a Victorian audience who were very interested in science and paranormal. So Dickens wrote the story with a supernatural mood and with the upmost intent to create fear for the reader. He has also written the story in a railway setting, which was central to Victorian life. Roal Dahl's desire within 'lamb to the Slaughter' is to make people smile at the humorous, ironic twist at the end. Dickens chose to write 'The Signalman' in first person so that the reader would experience what the narrator was feeling, allowing Dickens to be able to create tension. Dahl has written 'Lamb to the Slaughter' in third person as the only character that remains throughout the story is Mary Maloney and Dahl would have had to expressed her emotions before and after the murder, which would have spoilt the comical twist due to the complexity. ...read more.


This creates tension for the reader as they can sense something malicious could happen. You get the feeling that he is getting drawn into the cutting but he has reluctance as he feels there is something strange about the place and the Signalman. Due to the narrator being in first person the readership will also experience reluctance about the cutting. The 'Lamb to the Slaughter' setting is very relaxed but the 'The Signalman' setting is much more menacing. 'Lamb to the Slaughter' only has one main character throughout the story. I think Dahl has done this to make the story as simple as possible to allow the focus to be on the twist. Dahl has made Mary Maloney a person of habit so that the readers notice something different about the day, which builds the suspense. An example of this is when she notices the change in the way he drinks and how the ice cubes fall back to the bottom of the glass. "She heard the ice cubes falling back against the bottom of the empty glass". ...read more.


The story contains tantalising ironic moments. "It'd be a favour to me if you'd eat it up". In 'The signalman' the narrator goes the first time then decides to come back the next day. Which builds tension, as the reader knows that something is going to happen when he comes back. The Signalman sees three visions the first we are not told the details about, the second is when the women is found dead in the carriage and the third is when he is killed. When the Signalman first of all looks into the tunnel he stands on the track, which echoes the ending, when he is killed. He gets a warning and then the accident happens with the time in between shortening, thus building tension. The spectre puts his arm in front of his face which at first we think represents him hiding his identity, but then we find out it does it so it doesn't see the tradegy. Dickens also uses repetition to create tension. "Don't call out, don't call out, don't call out". The Signalman repeats this to emphasise the fact that it is important that he does not call out as he might think it is the spectre. ...read more.

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