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'The Signalman', by Charles Dickens; 'The Battler' by Ernest Hemingway - In what way do the two authors create and maintain interest and suspense in their stories?

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'The Signalman', by Charles Dickens; 'The Battler' by Ernest Hemingway - In what way do the two authors create and maintain interest and suspense in their stories? In Charles Dickens' 'The Signalman' the story starts by introducing the main character (a railway signalman). Another character is also introduced: the narrator. Dickens describes the signalman as a 'dark sallow man' and as having a 'dark beard' and 'heavy eyebrows'. It seems that Dickens wishes to portray the signalman as a dark and ominous figure. However, he then sheds some light on the character of the signalman. Dickens portrays him to be very lonely and afraid of something. This is shown in the way he 'turns himself about and looked down the Line' when the narrator calls to him. It is as if he is expecting something unusual. The narrator is obviously telling the story and almost introduces himself to be a very curious and helpful character. Dickens gives us no physical description of him, but we are told that he is a retired man who is interested in new technology: like the railway. So I imagined him as being of Middle Class status and intelligent. It seems he has the time to be interested in the new technologies of the time, almost like a hobby. From some of the things he says and does in the story, Dickens gives the impression that he is not a very perceptive person. For example, the very opening line is 'Halloa! Below there!' This is what the narrator calls to the signalman. He does not understand that this may be starling to the signalman on a solitary railway line and that is why he does not reply. ...read more.


Also, because Hemingway has him as a young teenager he is somewhat vulnerable: like the signalman was in Dickens' story. The way Hemingway describes Nick's appearance - he looks to have been beaten up: his 'pants were torn and the skin was barked. His hands were scraped and there were sand and cinders driven up under his nails'. This adds to the feeling that he is vulnerable. Hemingway uses a dark forest as the setting for the meeting between the two characters. This is similar to Dickens in that he used a deep and dark railway cutting; Hemmingway describes it as 'dark and a long way from anywhere'. The language used by Hemmingway indicates that it is an ominous place; one, which you would not want to be lost in. He repeats that it is 'dark' and 'black' the same way Dickens did with the railway cutting. The forest seems remote and mysterious; it is near a 'ghostly swamp'. There is a sense of urgency about Nick. Hemingway tells us that 'he must get to somewhere', it seems it does not matter where. When Nick finally meets the character, it seems he is more like the narrator in Dickens' story. He comes across as a man who looked to be alone. 'He was sitting there with his head in his hands looking at the fire.' Hemingway uses repetition of the word 'fire' to create a scene of tension. This is quite an intense image. Hemingway repeats it (the man sat there looking into the fire') a second time to make sure the reader forms a good mental picture. ...read more.


The relationship is strange because usually black people hated whites (at that time). This tells us that Bugs must get something out of their being together, for example: there were certain things that blacks were not allowed to do, so maybe anything Bugs could not do Ad would either get him into that place or do that thing for him. Hemingway is showing his moral standings on two points here. One of colour prejudice: he believes that the American stereotype of black people was wrong. In 'The Signalman', Charles Dickens explores human nature more than the ethics of a situation. I think the point of Dickens' work is to illustrate the point that new technology and science have a definite place in the new industrial world, but there will always be an element of the supernatural. Both writers explore slightly differing points, but both use the same basic techniques and effects to get their massage across. They create suspense, maintain it until a point and then let it go in a climax of excitement for the reader. However, their techniques of interesting the reader again slightly differ. For example, Charles Dickens uses complex metaphors when describing the setting: 'a crooked prolongation of this great dungeon'; 'barbarous air', which was popular at the time. Even the grammatical and linguistic usage by Dickens is far superior to Hemingway. Dickens uses colons, semi-colons etc, whereas Hemingway rarely uses anything like that. Hemingway draws on very few alternative words. For example, the word 'said' is used to tell us who is speaking: 'Nick said', 'said Ad', 'Bugs said'. This is done to suite his audience (the working class). Although the two authors have quite opposing styles, they both use relatively the same techniques when it comes to creating and maintaining suspense. ...read more.

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