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How does Dickens create suspense in

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Shannon Phillips The Signalman - Charles Dickens How does Dickens create suspense in "The Signalman"? I am going to be studying "The Signalman" written by Charles Dickens in 1866. I will be looking at, and analysing, how he creates suspense in the story and how effective this is. "The Signalman" is a short story written amidst an exciting time period in British History: the Victorian, Industrial Revolution. This was a time of great innovation and invention, a time of modernisation and a time of which many of the everyday items that we use today, were invented such as; telephones, toilets and trains. There were several influences to Dickens's story. A year previous to the story being written, Charles was himself was involved in a fatal train crash in which ten people died and many more were injured. This could, as well as others, could have been the main influence to the story. Also as trains were a new invention, Victorians were excited and fascinated by them. A story involving a train would have interested the target audience greatly. Also stories including a supernatural element were highly popular at the time due to books such as "Frankenstein" written by Mary Shelley 1818. Both elements of the modern, futuristic and supernatural referrals both being included in "The Signalman" was quite unusual. Most popular stories of the time, with a horror genre were usually set in gothic settings such as dark woods or forests, castles and haunted houses. To use a modern setting combined with the supernatural was strange and would attract attention to those looking for something a little different form the normal. There are three main themes to the story; the modernism of trains, supernatural elements and the issues of class. ...read more.


From that we automatically conclude that he must be un-educated and probably isn't clever enough to acquire another job, that requires academic qualities. The title also tells us what the story is going to be about - a signalman. The title also aids Dickens in creating suspense, as we know nothing of the signalman except, that he is a signalman. This provides a certain air of anonymity. In the opening the signalman's behaviour is very peculiar. Either he is deaf or ignorant for not answering the narrator's enquiries. He seems to have heard, yet remains with no reply or acknowledgement to the narrators presence. When he finally does acknowledge the narrator he only gestures and remains silent. This is very strange behaviour for a man who's job was a lonely one and a regular person would have been glad, even grateful of the company. Dickens describes the signalman as "dark". He has "dark" and "sallow". He has a "dark beard" and "heavy eyebrows". The use of the word sallow implies that the signalman is weary, tired and perhaps even ill or worried about something. This creates suspense as the reader begins to think about what could be wrong with the signalman and why his appearance is as described. The reader is told that the signalman, at one time, attended university, studying Philosophy. This shows that he must have, in the past, been affluent and intelligent enough to attend. Through whatever circumstances, the signalman never graduated. In Victorian times, most people didn't get the chance to go to university and if one was fortunate enough to be given the chance, there were no second chances if one wasted their opportunity. ...read more.


From that we automatically conclude that he must be un-educated and probably isn't clever enough to acquire another job, that requires academic qualities. This, as we are told, isn't true as he attended university. "The Signalman" could have been used as propaganda in several ways to address the problems with the class divide. It could be a warning to those of higher class studying at university. The story could be a deterrent, showing that if they squander their opportunities in they way the signalman did, they too could end up in a simple, laborious and manual job too. "The Signalman" could also be read another way dependant on the way the reader interprets it. The story could be providing some self-esteem and dignity to those in lower class situations, something to make them proud of what they are doing and make it feel worthwhile. The signalman was once a well off, upper-class citizen and the stresses of a commoner's job caused him to become unstable, deranged and irrational. Most sane people do not report to have seeing apparitions and spectres. Lower class people could read the story and feel satisfaction in whatever job they are doing and feel self-importance. The story could be used as motivational propaganda to boost moral of the lower class workforce. The use of no finalised ending gives the reader no closure to the story. This yet another way to keep the reader in suspense. Dickens has used excellent techniques in "The Signalman" to create suspense, and keep the suspense strong throughout the story all the way to the very end. Even after the reader has finished the story there is still suspense remaining, as they are asking themselves what the actual ending is. This is the result of successful use of various techniques to create suspense. ...read more.

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