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How does Charles Dickens create suspense and fear in 'The Signalman?'

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Coursework The Signalman How does Charles Dickens create suspense and fear in 'The Signalman?' Charles Dickens uses many methods to create suspense and fear in 'The Signalman' story. He introduces fear to make the short, ghost story more interesting. Dickens set his ghost story on a railway line, which at the same time has a very modern setting and not a traditional dark, crooked old house. The tale begins with a gripping and dramatic opening line, which instantly grabs the reader's attention. The first line introduces the narrator who was left anonymous throughout the story. This instantly builds up tension, as the reader does not know what sort of a person the narrator really is. When the narrator is a character in the story, it makes it easier to know how the person is feeling; this makes the reader more aware of the character and can begin to relate to them. Charles Dickens begins to create fear and suspense in the first couple of lines. The story begins with "halloa! Below there!" The words were shouted by a mysterious figure standing above the cutting on top of the bridge. It leaves us guessing who had shouted the words; all we know at this point is that it was a figure in the distance. 'Halloa' was an informal welcome in the late 19th century. This greeting automatically tells us that it was written in an earlier period. Today, if we were to greet a person we would simply say 'hello' or 'hi'. In the 19th century, people became more wary and suspicious of trains. There were many accidents during this time because people were only just getting used to the new type of transport. This connects the reader with the story because accidents are a main element to support the fear and suspense. The setting is also a main ingredient to create suspense and fear. ...read more.


We get the feeling that he has too much time and little to do. He taught himself a language, English-pronunciation, fractions decimals and a bit of algebra; he is clever. His job is his first priority, 'listened for it with redoubled anxiety'. The effect of this would be that he is very punctual with his work; the reader would think that this man is very reliable and nothing should go wrong. The signalman is lonely so he invites the narrator into his signal box for company where there was a warm fire and a desk. The reader knows that he is educated well above the standard of his duties; he attended lectures when he was younger and become a philosopher. Therefore, the reader is curious to know what made him drop his education and become a signalman. The stranger believes that there could be no other man he knew which would be best at this job, 'Safest of man to be employed.' Charles Dickens also uses the signalman's past to increase curiosity and tension by saying 'he had run wild, misused his opportunities, gone down and never raised again', this tells us that he had the opportunity to become a great philosopher but he decided not to, he never tried to prove his education again. He has a murky past and this raises suspicion in our minds. One other technique the writer uses to build up suspense is in the beginning of the paragraph ' in a word I should have set?' is extremely important because it was the beginning of the main part of the short story. While they were speaking the signalman 'twice broke off with fallen colour, and turned his face towards the little bell when it did not ring.' This mysterious action makes the idea of the signalman being 'ill' more obvious. We begin to think that the signalman was so caught up with his job that he begins to hear and see things that are not there. ...read more.


Although he also could of frozen and cut-off from everything around him because he had heard the words that haunted him. In another sense if the signalman knew his job as well as the narrator, thought then we would of expected him to move when the train was approaching him. We can begin to think that the signalman was under too much pressure and that maybe he blamed himself for all of the accidents. He could not help to prevent these tragedies so he committed suicide to help stop the events repeating. The story had a depressing, tense mood, but most of all with an interesting atmosphere. It is depressing because it is about death, but it's interesting because it includes ghosts and a roller coaster of events containing suspense and fear. It is a lot more interesting for the story to contain only two main characters (not including the spectre) because there is more time to get to know the characters better and to relate to how they feel. The gloomy, dark, dismal setting establishes the tone. The story works well as a ghost and mystery story because they generally contain a lot of tension and twists, this one has. The narrator makes the ghost seem real and believable the story is not overdone with supernatural events, images and effects. Charles Dickens also keeps us hanging on to what we have gathered; he intrigues us to read on to explore the end. The beginning was slightly confusing but pulled together at the end. We can therefore see that Charles Dickens created suspense and fear by using many clever techniques such as describing the setting as scary as possible, providing the characters with different personalities etc. I think that the signalman is a good story because when a person begins to read it they would have no idea that it would end the way it did. Charles Dickens provided the readers with an interesting story line, full of suspense and fear, containing Charles Dickens story and the story of the signalman. ...read more.

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