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How does Dickens create an unnerving atmosphere of suspense and tension in "The Signalman"?

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How does Dickens create an unnerving atmosphere pf suspense and tension in "The Signalman"? Introduction. Charles Dickens was an author famous for his full-length stories, although he wrote a few short-length ones too. One of those was the "The Signalman" written in the mid 19th century. The genre of this story is horror, and creates an atmosphere which is spooky and eerie. The Setting. "The Signalman" is a story written by Charles Dickens about a troubled Signalman and using descriptive language, he creates an eerie, creepy and lonesome atmosphere which is fill of suspense and tension. This is creates by the help of the setting. Although we realise it is a train station, Dickens describes it as a place full of foreboding. As the man, (the narrator) walks down to the Signalman, we describes it as a "deep trench". The word "trench" reminds one of the narrow ditches used for shelter during the war. Although we may think this is a link to war, in actual fact it isn't as the time which the story was written was well before the first century. This gives the setting a sense of claustrophobia, that there is little space to move and the path is only big enough for his body to walk through. Another example is the description he uses to describe the air, "vapour". Obviously this gives one the sense of the air being wet and moist, however, I believe this was deliberately included by Dickens because, it gives an effect and image of a mist-like, cloudy place which is the typical ingredient for eeriness. ...read more.


At this point, I believe the Signalman is curious about the narrator, as he does not know who he is, and why he is here. The narrator also considers a few things after the Signalman was rather unwelcoming towards him. He thinks that the Signalman could possibly be insane, which he implies by saying, "There may have been infection in this mind." He also describes the Signalman as being "saturnine." By this, is referring to the Signalman as a dark and gloomy person, and that he realised something was troubling him. However, he was to change his opinion, as he got to know the Signalman. After a conversation with the Signalman, he is told that the Signalman is encountering a problem, which he openly admits, "I am troubled sir." The Signalman clearly feels he know the narrator enough to confide in him and reveal to him that he has a problem, which is unsettling him and making him unhappy. In my opinion this is rather strange and awkward, as the Signalman barely knows the narrator, who is practically a strange to him, and yet he is confiding in him. However, he then asks the narrator, "This is a cruel haunting of me. What can I do?" This clearly shows that the Signalman is desperate as he is pleading to the narrator. Now he realise the Signalman has a problem, he feels sorry and pitiful for him. ...read more.


At this very point he realises that he has not only seen a spectre, but at a scene where an accident has happened. He then went down to investigate, and at that point when he goes down to question the men and ask what has happened, we were left on our edge wondering who it was. Unfortunately, this wasn't the "grand-finale" of the story. It was quite a disappointment really, because the reader can narrow the death victim easily, the Signalman, which it turns out to be. I believe the story is disappointing in the way it is due to the perspective it is written from. The narrator, the person who the Signalman confides in, unfortunately explains the story, from his perspective. This spoils the ending as we know he could not possibly be killed as he is the one explaining the story, and as due to the fact there are basically only two characters in the entire story, it is easy to narrow it down that the Signalman would have been that death victim. If Dickens had written this from a real narrator's perspective, and left the two characters separately, then it would have been more difficult to guess who the victim was. The ending is really an anti-climax, because this is basically were the story ends as there is no longer any tension left, however. The suspense is still there as the reader is kept hanging by one question; why did the Signalman die in such a way? Venu Tetali ...read more.

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