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How does Charles Dickens create suspense in 'The Signal Man'?

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Introduction

HOW DOES CHARLES DICKENS CREATE SUSPENSE IN 'THE SIGNAL MAN'? Dickens creates suspense in 'the signal man' by keeping us interested in a number of ways. He portrays the mysterious and deadly setting, the introduction of the signal man and the impression of the narrator fully. He also describes the spooky sight of the first ghost, the unusual second appearance of a ghost and the death aboard the train. Dickens presents the setting of his story vividly. Often, he uses such personification as "angry sunset"; to show that the narrator may be angry as the sun would be blazing down in his eyes. This helps create suspense and make us want to read more. Immediately in the book, we are shown the setting. It is described as a "deep trench" and "unusually precipitous", which gives a sense of danger, because the words sound sharp and prickly. Furthermore, he explores his scene of a valley as "extremely deep" that could suggest a large dark pit, as light would not be able to penetrate to the bottom. ...read more.

Middle

'The Signal Man' is a ghost story, and as any story develops the writer must introduce the spectre. To keep our interest in the book, he portrays the narrator's feelings against the signal man's visions. Dickens writes, "a disagreeable shudder crept over me", which suggests he was scared of the man's story but refused to believe it. He may have refused to believe this as in those days, religion was much dominant than it is now and in England around this time was Christian, and some parts of the teachings see spectres as unclean and as blasphemy. However, the narrator does not come over as religious, he is more scientific and perhaps believes it is the signal man's own delusions. The signal man was said to have talked "a tone lower than a whisper", that suggests he was weary of talking. The word 'whisper' to me is used possibly because the writer wants to create a feeling to explore his personality further but at the same time, make us question why the signal man is like this. ...read more.

Conclusion

The narrator may be using this as an excuse so that he can think that there is something wrong with his mind. In addition to this, the narrator tries to persuade the man on how his "imagination miss leads him". It suggests that he saw it only in his mind and it did not exist. We are told by the narrator that he thought "how best to improve this advantage", which shows he was prepared to cunningly better his situation and power over the signal by securing his claim to a diseased brain. From his mysterious sightings and from the way he acts, I believe that the signal man is portrayed as a haunted and secretive man. The narrator however, is conveyed as a person who will not believe in the invisible and tries to make up his excuses. This may be why for such a religious era; he did not show any signs of holiness, as he does not believe in the unseen. It is clear he is frightened of what there could be. ...read more.

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