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How do Dickens and Gaskell use language to create setting and atmosphere?

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Introduction

How do Dickens and Gaskell use language to create setting and atmosphere? Ms.F.Pow Rebecca Lau In the two short ghost stories, The Signalman, written by Charles Dickens and The Old Nurse's Story written by Elizabeth Gaskell, a lot of techniques were used to create setting and atmosphere. These techniques may include pathetic fallacy, detailed imagery, using traditional ghost story settings, and first person point of view. In The Signalman, Dickens chose not to tell readers the names of characters to give the characters a mysterious atmosphere. The signalman never introduced himself thoroughly, so he is always referred to as "he" or "him", "he stirred" "he answered" "he returned". This makes him veiled, as a name is the most common way of knowing a person. This makes the character of the signalman harder to understand, and builds up a mysterious atmosphere. Dickens and Gaskell both use pathetic fallacy to reflect the character's feelings and the atmosphere. The "angry sunset" and the "barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air" in The Signalman all reflect the narrator's feelings. ...read more.

Middle

Both writers chose to use traditional ghost stories settings, which is basing the whole story in an isolated, remote and ancient place. The Old Nurse's Story is set in the "black moors of Northumberland" or "the foot of the Cumberland Fells" which "left all signs of a town, or even a village"; while The Signalman is set in a place of "dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip of sky" and near to a "black tunnel" with a "gloomy red light". The isolation of these settings implies that it needs journeys over dangerous lands, further suggesting how stranded the characters are, as there will be no rescuers. These solitary settings also suggest how defenseless and vulnerable the characters are, if unexpected events occur. These secluded settings contribute to building up the tense atmosphere. Both The Signalman and The Old Nurse's Story contains a lot of detailed imageries of the bleak and melancholy setting to give the reader a complete image and to build up the tension. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens writes The Signalman as one of the main protagonist is also the narrator of the story, creating a strong uncertain atmosphere in the story as to not everything said may be true. As the narrator is the one who has "reason him out of his conviction", he is obviously the "protagonist" of the story. But at the same time, he is also the narrator, readers are seeing from his point of view, so the readers might be mislead as to whether the narrator is the protagonist or not. This creates an obscurity atmosphere on the story to the reader. Both the short stories The Signalman and The Old Nurse's Story do not have very happy endings; the atmospheres at the end are mostly depressing and relieving. The settings and techniques used when writing these short ghost stories are somewhat similar, suggesting that ghost stories are mostly based on the plot of the story, but the setting and atmosphere is still important. ?? ?? ?? ?? 2nd English Coursework first draft 1/2 ...read more.

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