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"The Signalman" by Charles Dickens, and "The Red Room" by H.G.Wells - Compare these two stories, commenting upon, the settings, the narrators, other characters, and the endings.

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Introduction

Yathish Srikantha 10H Set 8 "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens "The Red Room" by H.G.Wells Compare these two stories, commenting upon 1) the settings, 2) the narrators, 3) other characters, 4) the endings. (Pay attention to the historical and literary contexts.) Charles Dickens lived in the 19th century, "the age of steam". Dickens was born near Portsmouth: his father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. The happiest period of Dickens's troubled childhood was spent in Chatham, although the family moved around a great deal. By early 1824, the family was in financial trouble and the 12-year old Dickens was sent to work for a few months at a shoe-polish warehouse on the banks of the Thames. A few days later, his father was arrested for debt. His father was imprisoned in the Marshalsea Prison and, except for Charles, who had lodgings in Camden, and his sister, who was studying music, all the family lived in the prison with him. In the summer of 1824, after Dickens's father's case was heard by the Insolvency Court, the family was allowed to leave the prison but Dickens continued to work in the warehouse until 1825, when his father sent him to school at Wellington House Academy. At the time Dickens' lived, the railways were very uncommon to see because people at that time used stagecoaches as the form of transport. Surprisingly, "The Signalman" is set on the railway. However, in the story the railway seems to be associated with death almost as if Dickens disapproved or feared the railways. ...read more.

Middle

The narrator lights up the entire bedroom because he wants to see what is there for himself. When the candles start to go out, the narrator starts to panic, which gradually increases. "My hands trembled so much that twice I missed the rough paper of the matchbox." He is starting to be afraid of the supernatural, which he claimed did not exist. When a number of candles go out, the narrator utters a cry of terror. As more candles go out, he panics even more. He tries to light a candle from the fire, and then he starts to run around the room, which is in darkness. It is shown how frightened he is by the phrase: "Steady on!" "These candles are wanted." It is clear that the narrator is not a true rationalist. At the end, the narrator tries to show that fear is the great enemy of rationalism. However, he proves to be unreliable, since he fails to mention the fire and the candles. This means that he refuses to face up to those parts of his experience, which he cannot explain. The signalman is the central character in Dickens' story. The most important focus is on the signalman's experience. This is unlike "The Red Room", where the narrator's experiences are the main aspects of the story. At the beginning of the story, the signalman himself seems to be strange, mysterious and almost supernatural and therefore contributes to the strange atmosphere. ...read more.

Conclusion

The narrators of the two stories also appear to be very different. The narrator of "The Signalman" is sympathetic to the signalman and is very interested in his experience. He revisits the signalman after their first talk because he wants to find out more about him. The narrator of "The Red Room" on the other hand, seems to be extremely arrogant and also acts pompously when he talks to the three custodians. He talks as though he is superior and should be treated with respect. The signalman is the most important character in Dickens' story; it is mainly his experiences that are the most important features of his story. This is quite unlike "The Red Room", since the narrator's experiences are the main aspects of the story. The other characters are the three custodians who are described in a gothic way so that they appear as bizarre and odd as possible. The ending of "The Signalman" answers all of the questions that we have been asking ourselves of the signalman and the spectre. In Wells' story, however, there is not a strong feeling of complete closure. Although the narrator tries to explain what has happened to him, he fails to explain his experience in detail. In "The Red Room", there is a touch of humour at the end, when the narrator explains that it was his own fear, which caused him to panic. The old man with the shade misinterprets this, and he thinks fear is now a supernatural force. The ending of the "The Signalman" fills the reader with sadness and a feeling of pity towards the main character. Lots of emotions are provoked here, unlike "The Red Room". 2 ...read more.

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