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'The Darkness Out There' by Penelope Lively and 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens.

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Introduction

Peter Hayward English Coursework: Comparison of Two Short Stories In this piece I will compare the fictional stories of 'The Darkness Out There' by Penelope Lively and 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens. The two stories share the build up of suspense as the conclusion draws closer throughout, another similarity is that both books have unexpected endings. They are also similar in that the books are written on incidents involving death. Though the styles of the authors are different, Dickens builds up tension with themes of mystery, while Lively builds tension with themes more concentrated on people's conduct. Dickens was a 19th century novelist who is still today very popular and well known; two of his most popular works are 'David Copperfield' and 'Great Expectations'. Dickens began writing short stories and publishing them chapter by chapter in a national newspaper. This is the reason why Dickens style of writing used to leave the story hanging at the end of each chapter, to encourage people to buy the newspaper again to read the next chapter. Dickens wrote novels to suite his Victorian audiences who were compelled towards ghostly and mysterious stories. This can be related to as a gothic age in fiction, as stories were dark and aimed to scare. ...read more.

Middle

Instead he simply points to the direction of the path. The narrator makes his way down a path this deep canyon where a railway line runs through. As the two men come closer the narrator describes the signalman, '...a dark sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows'. In this paragraph the area is described in much more detail as 'this great dungeon', 'gloomy' and 'there was a barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air'. This is a good paragraph to continue with the opening themes as it confirms the reader's beliefs about the signalman's appearance. It also confirms the setting of the story. Soon the narrator comments on how the Signalman somehow intimidated him, which had the effect of confirming the readers vision of the mysterious Signalman character. Dickens is aware that the reader is now likely to read the whole story so he is able to decrease the mystery and the suspense that something strange is likely to happen for a few paragraphs and delve into the communication between the two strangers. The narrator describes what he has observed and some of the conversing between them. The narrator describes the Signalman as bright and efficient at his job. To set the story off again the narrator describes the occurrences when the signalman strangely cuts off the conversation and stares at a bell, which does not ring. ...read more.

Conclusion

Another similarity of the two books is that the characters are quite conceivable and well described. 'The Signalman' narrator is a professional man who finds interest in finding out about another intellectuals like him who have entered into a completely different career. The signalman is a normal person that has over time begun to behave in a strange manner because of his secluded, lonely job and also because of his experiences. These two characters are well described and the audience becomes more aware of what they are like as the story goes on. In the second story Sandra is an innocent normal young girl. Kerry, of the same age, is a boy who knows what direction he wishes to take in life. Mrs Rutter is an old lady who, like the signalman, acts in a strange way because she is lonely and also because of her experiences with her husband dying and the German plane crash. To conclude I think that 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens is the better of the two stories. Dickens creates suspense throughout the story making it more exciting, even though it is written in Victorian English and takes a bit more intellect to decipher some parts of it. Penelope Lively's 'The Darkness Out There' does not make the reader feel enough suspense or excitement. I think that this author's ending is much too hurried and also too unexpected, although she presumably intended to have an unexpected ending. ...read more.

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