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In this essay I am going to examine the techniques used by Charles Dickesn to create atmosphere and character in 'The Signalman' and extracts from Great Expectations and Oliver Twist.

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Pre 1900 Prose Assignment - Charles Dickens Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on 7th February 1812 in Portsmouth. He was the second eldest of the eight children of John Dickens, two of those eight died in childhood. John Dickens was a clerk in the Naval Pay Office, but he was occasionally brought into debt even though he was hard-working. Charles Dickens spent his early childhood in Portsmouth, London and Chatham as his fathers work took him from place to place. In 1823, Charles was employed in a blacking business to help out with the family's financial disaster. Just before this, John Dickens was arrested for debt and not long after the whole family, with the exception of Charles, joined him in the Marshalsea Debtors' Prison. The Monthly Magazine was the magazine where Dickens' first story, 'A Dinner at Poplar Walk' was published. A year later Dickens becomes a reporter on the Morning Chronicle and not long after that he got engaged to Catherine Hogarth. In 1836 he marries Catherine. Dickens was soon a father of a son, the first of ten children, following 'The Pickwick Papers' publication. The Dickens family then leave for Italy, Switzerland and France in 1844, but he returns to London briefly to read 'The Chimes' to friends before its publication in December. Seven years later, his father dies, during in which time he had moved back and forth from London, Italy, Switzerland and France. Dickens' mother and his son Walter die in 1863, five years after his separation from his wife. In 1867, Dickens started to become very ill and it got worse and worse for the next two or three years until he died on 9th June, collapsing at Gad's Hill, aged fifty-eight. Charles John Huffam Dickens was buried in Westminster Abbey. In this essay I am going to examine the techniques used by Charles Dickesn to create atmosphere and character in 'The Signalman' and extracts from Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. ...read more.


This sets his character out straight away. 'I never saw my father or my mother' lets us know that he is an orphan and this makes us sympathise with him. Pip is taken as imaginative and tries to think what his parents must have looked like by using unusual things to create an odd idea, 'the shape of the letters on my father's gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout dark man, with curly black hair.' The next paragraph is in 3rd person and is very effective in giving a wider picture. 'And that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.' Also by using 3rd person in a 1st person story gives a different perspective to how Pip might feel, but can create confusion as well. The narrator in this paragraph gives an insight into the character and makes Pip sound more vulnerable than he already is. 'Low leaden line beyond was the river', alliteration appears in this and Dickens has created description from the use of the senses. 'The Signalman' created description from the uses of the senses as well and this is one similarity in both extracts. 'And that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.' This sentence finishes the 3rd person's view on Pip and is one way in which Dickens has made him look vulnerable and weak. The story goes straight back into 1st person when the convict appears on the scene to confront Pip. Dickens has most probably done this so we can see how Pip feels through his own mind and what he was thinking during the meet between him and the evil convict. 'Whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.' '"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice' starts the arrival of the convict in the story. ...read more.


Nancy is said to be pleased with Bill's return and she thinks of him as a guard or some protection, or it shows that she might love him, 'with an expression of pleasure at his return.' During the murder of Nancy, she was said to be praying on her knees and this helps for Dickens to make us feel sorry for her. Also 'a white handkerchief' makes her appear helpless and weak This extract from Oliver Twist has most of the atmosphere techniques at the start of it, so as to create an image of the scene as quickly as possible. 'The Signalman' and this extract are very similar in the techniques used to create atmosphere as Dickens is trying to build up a dangerous and evil place. Techniques used to create character are used throughout the extract and each character has been given different characteristics so there would be conflict. Fagin is very sly and evil, Sikes is violent and aggressive and Nancy is vulnerable and weak. 'The Signalman' and Great Expectations both have two characters and centres mainly on the atmosphere and less on the them, whereas Oliver Twist uses techniques more to describe the characters. I found that 'The Signalman' and Oliver Twist were the more effective of the three. I think I thought this as there was a lot of detail on the atmosphere of 'The Signalman' and had conclusions to what the signalman was like, in his job and what is personality was actually like. Oliver Twist went into great detail with the characters and I liked this as I could create an image of all three characters and then I imagined what the atmosphere was like around them after. Dickens in Great Expectations, though, didn't use as many effective techniques to describe the characters. The atmosphere was being described through the use of the senses and there weren't that many other techniques. This is why I thought that Great Expectations was less interesting and therefore less effective in building atmosphere and character. By Steven Rogers ...read more.

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