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How does Charles Dickens create and sustain suspense in his story "The Signalman"?

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Introduction

"The Signalman" by Charles Dickens How does Charles Dickens create and sustain suspense in his story "The Signalman"? "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens first appeared in the 1866 Christmas edition of the Charles Dickens magazine called "All the year round". "The Signalman" is a nineteenth century ghost story, however it is different from the traditional stories of this time, which have settings in graveyards and haunted houses and the ghosts come to punish past misdeeds for example in "The Christmas Coral" instead of warning a future advent which was thought by the Victorians to have no purpose. This story for the time has a high tech setting in a railway cutting and is described by Dickens to be "Extremely deep and unusually precipitate". It was probably set in Clayton Tunnel under the South Downs where a deadly accident occurred in 1861. Trains were still novel and exciting in the 1860's but many people were wary of them including Charles Dickens. ...read more.

Middle

He describes the signalman as "One the safest of men to be employed in that capacity." However the story also concentrates on the loneliness of the signalman's work place and the effect, which this has on his mental well-being. This is one of the themes of the story and from the reaction of the signalman to the visitor, which is quoted below it, is clear that he is not used to company. "Instead of looking up to where I stood on the top of the cutting nearly over his head he turned himself about and looked down the line". We learn later that there is another reason for the signalman's strange behaviour, which introduces another theme of the supernatural. There are only two characters in "the Signalman" but under no means does this make the story boring, as they are both very different. The signalman himself is surprisingly well educated as we learn that "He had taught himself a language" and "Had also worked at fractions and decimals, and tried a little algebra." ...read more.

Conclusion

It is very very difficult to speak of. If ever you make me another visit I will try to tell you" this makes the reader keep on reading to find out what is troubling him and how the story develops. However the biggest area of suspense is made by the spectre and doesn't end until the very last page. In conclusion "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens is a story of supernatural and suspense. Throughout the whole story the reader is kept guessing, first about the signalman's strange behaviour then about the victim after the third appearance of the spectre. I expected the signalman to find out why the spectre appeared for the third time and then to stop the accident from happening, however at the very end of the story the visitor as well as the reader finds out that the victim is actually the signalman himself which leaves the reader feeling stunned, sad and in a way spooked out. Being given little bits of information at a time like the present day TV soaps helps create this suspense. ...read more.

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