How Charles Dickens Creates Tension In His Short Story The Signalman
How Charles Dickens Creates Tension In His Short Story The Signalman

How Charles Dickens Creates Tension In His Short Story The Signalman

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  • Pages: 5 (2479 words)
  • Published: October 14, 2017
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“Nothing to extravagant, no straightforward endings” this is how Susan Hill, the author of ‘The Woman In Black’ describes a perfect ghost story. Her own advice obviously paid off, as her famous novel was turned into a West End production at the Fortune Theatre, London and has been running for a long fourteen years.

I have seen the play and can honestly say it was one of the most haunting things I have ever seen. Charles Dickens is famous for his novels and also wrote a few short stories.Dickens only ever wrote one ghost story and he called it ‘The Signalman’. The story is everything Susan Hill describes as an effective scary story-“It depends on atmosphere and sense of place”. This is how Charles Dickens creates tension in his short ghost story, ‘The Signalman’. The first paragraph opens with ‘Halloa, below there! ‘ This is a very effective start to the story because I think it’s as if it comes from nowhere.

The noise interrupts the silence.The first paragraph is very thoughtful and descriptive, and is all about somebody’s thoughts. At this point in the story there are no clues to identify the characters in the story, this creates tension because you do not know who the narrator of the story is and you don’t know whom he is talking about, and this makes it more mysterious. Something I found quite strange in the first paragraph was that it says ‘one would have thought.

.. hat he could not have d

...

oubted from what quarter the voice came; but instead of looking up to where I stood on top of the steep cutting nearly over his head, he turned himself about and looked down the Line’ this is strange because the man he calls, would automatically look up at the direction of the sound but I think its quite spooky that he looks in a different direction. Its like his subconscious mind telling him to look the other way, just like he has heard that same line before but it came from ‘down the Line’.

There is a lot of description of the surroundings in the first paragraph and Dickens describes the sun as ‘angry’ which is very negative compared to a lot of description and is also personification. In the second paragraph you still do not know who the characters in the story are, you do not find out until the third paragraph when you find out the second mans job. But throughout the story you do not find out their names. The Signalman still hasn’t even spoken yet; I think this creates tension because there is a sense of mystery left in the story.In the second paragraph the narrator describes the train, he describes it as ‘a vague vibration in the air, quickly changing into a violent pulsation, and an oncoming rush that caused me to start back, as though it had force to draw me down’ Dickens describes it as if it was very scary, like a monster. I think once again the train creates tension because it breaks a very quiet ambience.

When the man asks for directions, al

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the Signalman does is wave his flag, so he doesn’t have to talk.I think he does this because he is wary of something around him, he is quite frightened, and this creates tension because the reader still does not know why, the Signalman is behaving in this manner. The way the man talks to the Signalman suggests tension between the two men because the conversation is just coming from the stranger and not from the Signalman, also the Stranger was reluctant to repeat his question when it was not answered, perhaps because of a fear of upsetting the Signalman because he seems so tense.In the fourth paragraph there is more description of the surroundings, for example, ‘the cutting was extremely deep and unusually precipitous.

… Clammy stone, that became oozier and wetter as I went down’. This shows that people rarely go down there so I think the Signalman and his home is very isolated.

This is spooky because you know that if anything went wrong there wouldn’t be anybody there to help. It also makes you wonder why the Stranger went down there anyway, what was he doing wondering round the countryside in the middle of nowhere?The fifth paragraph shows the Signalman still being very strange and subdued, because when the stranger reaches the track, which is where the Signalman is stood his body language suggests that he is wary of the Strangers presence. Also Dickens writes ‘he was standing between the rails…

in an attitude as if he were waiting for me to appear. ‘ Dickens creates tension by suggesting that the Signalman knows something everybody else doesn’t, including the Stranger. The next paragraph is a lot of description and nearly every other word is very pessimistic.Dickens describes the Signalman as a ‘dark and sallow man’ very negative and a bit dark and quite miserable. Dickens describes the surroundings again using words such as, ‘solitary, dismal, dripping-wet, jagged’ He refers to the area in which the Signalman lives as a ‘great dungeon’ but he stills goes on referring to the area as ‘barbarous, depressing and forbidding, earthy and deadly’ There is nothing positive about this paragraph whatsoever so this is all building up a spooky atmosphere, which is something Susan Hill said was required for a good ghost story.

Dickens keeps talking about how there is little sunlight that gets into the small ‘valley’ in which the Signalman, which means the place would be shady and quite cold even in the middle of the day, which I think creates tension and unease. In the seventh paragraph we see the first signs of movement and even the Stranger has noticed because he says ‘before he stirred, I was near enough to him to have touched him.Not even then removing his eyes from mine, he stepped back one step and lifted his hand’ this shows that the Signalman is definitely afraid of the Stranger but at thins point the Stranger has given no reason for the Signalman to be worried so this makes us wonder why he is so frightened. But it seems that the Stranger is also quite afraid of the

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