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How Charles Dickens Creates Tension In His Short Story 'The Signalman'.

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Introduction

How Charles Dickens Creates Tension In His Short Story 'The Signalman' "Nothing to extravagant, no straightforward endings" this is how Susan Hill, the author of 'The Woman In Black' describes a perfect ghost story. Her own advice obviously paid off, as her famous novel was turned into a West End production at the Fortune Theatre, London and has been running for a long fourteen years. I have seen the play and can honestly say it was one of the most haunting things I have ever seen. Charles Dickens is famous for his novels and also wrote a few short stories. Dickens only ever wrote one ghost story and he called it 'The Signalman'. The story is everything Susan Hill describes as an effective scary story-"It depends on atmosphere and sense of place". This is how Charles Dickens creates tension in his short ghost story, 'The Signalman'. The first paragraph opens with 'Halloa, below there!' This is a very effective start to the story because I think it's as if it comes from nowhere. The noise interrupts the silence. The first paragraph is very thoughtful and descriptive, and is all about somebody's thoughts. At this point in the story there are no clues to identify the characters in the story, this creates tension because you do not know who the narrator of the story is and you don't know whom he is talking about, and this makes it more mysterious. ...read more.

Middle

The stranger says in the ninth paragraph 'I have speculated since, whether there may have been infection in his mind.' I'm not sure but I think this means that the Stranger doubts the Signalman's sanity. The after these thoughts the Stranger seems to become nervous of the Signalman because he has to force a smile when confronting the Signalman of his fear for him, this suggests the Stranger has become more edgy around the Signalman. But then for the first time in the story the Signalman speaks and he explains to the Stranger why he was quite so wary of him. The Signalman becomes very serious but the Stranger brushes off his strange comments by being jolly and speaking as if the Signalman was being silly and talking nonsense. Which at this point it sounds like he is, but now people think there is a twist. The tenth paragraph tells us about the Signalman's life and how he does not have much to do, but everything he does do is very important. Then the Signalman talks about his skills and what his childhood was like. This makes the Signalman seem more down to Earth, stops him sounding so strange. But the Signalman shows quite a talent and could be in a better job and this makes the reader wonder why. The Signalman admits to all his mistakes in life and seems to have many regrets, but this also shows the Signalman as honest. ...read more.

Conclusion

But then his happiness is replaced with overwhelming fear as he says 'I cannot describe the thrill that seized upon me' because he sees somebody stood at the mouth of the tunnel doing that same motion that the Signalman told him about. Dickens describes the Strangers reaction as 'A nameless horror that oppressed me' and 'with an irresistible sense that something was wrong' The Stranger felt a sense of guilt and ran down to the Signalman faster than usual but the Signalman was dead. There is not really much tension in this part of the story as it is the end, but it everything starts fitting together. There is obviously something deeper than just the Signalman being knocked down because even the workmen admit that 'No man in England knew his work better', and that the Signalman was just to careful and good at his job to be knocked down. The Strange man believes there is only one explanation and everything points to The Spectre. The train driver explains how the Signalman was stood on the tracks and how he called out to him 'below there! Look out! For God's sake clear the way!' and how the train driver motioned with his arm covering his face as he waved. It is exactly how the Signalman describes it. This all is very daunting as the reader finds out just how everything the Signalman saw was real and how it caused his death. ...read more.

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