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How does Charles Dickens create an appropriate atmosphere through description of the setting and the use of the language in 'The Signal-Man'

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How does Charles Dickens create an appropriate atmosphere through description of the setting and the use of the language in 'The Signal-man' 'The Signal-man' is a ghostly thriller by Charles Dickens. Based on an apparently hallucinating signal-man and the tales of his hallucinations, the story is seen through the eyes of the narrator, a man told of the signal-mans troubles during conversations with the signal-man himself. From the beginning of the story, the atmosphere is both eerie and gloomy. To produce this type of atmosphere, Dickens had to draw on several different aspects of English literature-mostly through description and use of language. The setting is described meticulously, producing vivid images in the mind of the reader. For example, when the narrator and the signal-man first encounter each other, the strange, mysterious atmosphere is set already. "...his figure was...down in the deep trench, and mine was high above him, so steeped in the glow of an angry sunset..." ...read more.


I ran out again, faster than I had run in (for I had a mortal abhorrence of the place upon me)..." This quotation conveys the signal-mans feelings of fear and anxiety well. Later on, when the men look for the spectre at the tunnel, significance is put upon the mouth of the tunnel in a way that makes the atmosphere tense. "there was the danger-light. There, was the dismal mouth of the tunnel." All of these descriptions help build up to the creepy, edgy ending, but the use of the language is another important part of the unnerving atmosphere. Many times, when talking about the stories setting, dickens would use emotive colours in descriptions, such as: "...the glow of an angry sunset." "...a gloomy red light and a gloomier entrance to a black tunnel." "...his grave, dark regards..." The main theme of the use of colours is danger and despair. The prominent colours are red and black, which are both dark, gloomy colours, but can also be harsh and angry. ...read more.


Such a quotation gives a fair indication of the signal-mans bizarre manner, though it doesn't give particular hint to the panic that appears to rise with the signal-mans character when he talks and thinks about the spectre. "What is the danger? Where is the danger...Surely there is a cruel haunting of me. What can I do?" The use of short, sharp sentences helps increase the signal-mans hysteria. Many of the events in the story are written in long, thoroughly descriptive sentences that include several commas to separate specific events, and further descriptions. Though sometimes it can be slightly difficult to follow the story, I understand that this kind of writing was common for the time. The only time the sentence structure differs is when the story is at a tenser moment. At such a point, the sentences tend to be shorter and more to the point. I think this way; the sentences make a bigger impact. Taking all of this into account, I believe that the atmosphere for the story has been well produced through both the description of the setting, and the usage of language. By Kimberley Sunter ...read more.

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