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Charles Dickens Essay

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In The Signalman, however, speed is conveyed through motion used in the story, mostly by the travelling train. Once again, the opening of the story uses dialogue, and all is written in first person creating immediacy and close tension. And though movement is both slow and quick, both speeds are used to create an air of mystery and surprise in the way they link with areas which many would not prefer to pass through.

When the narrator describes his descent to come into contact with the Signalman, his ‘zigzag’ decent is pictured as becoming ‘oozier and wetter’ as he went down and is reluctant to come down for this stranger, resembling a decent to the unknown or to Hell.

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The precision of the narrator’s detailed descriptions was an element of surprise for this detail was not normal, and reflects the characteristics of the Signalman in his daily job as perfectionist and precisionist. He is described with many words linking to a dark motif, such as being a ‘dark sallow man’, having a ‘dark beard’, ‘heavy eyebrows’ and was in place ‘solitary and dismal’.

Description used by Dickens seamlessly flows from the man to the setting as if the man was part of the landscape, merged like a ghost is to its surroundings. He is also described as being ‘lonesome’, which may depict an image of insanity when his thoughts and sightings of paranormal existence are merged. The cutting itself is then described as if the narrator ‘had left the natural world’, creating an air of mystery in the situation where the tunnel has a ‘barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air’ and these metaphors put emphasis on the mystery in the setting.

Use of speech is varied in this short story, as opposed to The Red Room only using direct speech, whereas The Signalman uses both direct and reported speech to help flow with the descriptive elements of the story. Time is therefore important in how it is conveyed in speech, and in various sections of dialogue, Dickens uses reported speech and direct speech to help us understand which point in time we are following: the past or present. In the most part, the direct speech is used to describe the present situation, and reported speech often used to provide exposition for the reader.

In the first instance, the Signalman seems to be a quiet man, where he “replied (but without sound), ‘Yes’ “, and his speech being one of his own as to have formed ‘his own crude ideas of its pronunciation’ is a suggestion that he was from a poor upbringing or one with no education. Description using reported speech also suggests that happiness and leisure in spare time is not a frequent occurrence in the Signalman’s life, where he had only ‘under certain conditions’ or in ‘certain hours of the day’ would he be able to do anything other than attending to the bell.

It is also as if the Signalman is reliant on the electric bell, where is sometimes ‘redoubled with anxiety’ if he is away from the bell and thus would be less happy than as expected. Repetition of speech is also effective in the story, with the first instance being the introduction of the short story with the words ‘Halloa! Below there! ‘ used by three entities – the narrator, the spectre and the train driver towards the end of the story.

It is with this repetition that Dickens uses it to drawn in a supernatural surrounding and a sense of mystery, suspense and surprise when the Signalman asks the narrator to return, but ‘don’t call out’ and asking whether the narrator was not compelled by any ‘feeling’ or ‘conveyed to you in any supernatural way’, changing the atmosphere to one of hope and a farewell which will result in them meeting again, into a sense of doom and one farewell which may be their last. In The Red Room, repetition is used in the first room with the elderly, seemingly disfigured people to show age.

Many elderly people are portrayed as being hard of hearing – a connotation of their age – but can also, in this short story, imply a sense of danger about the Room. The solitary description of habitat is also key, where the small box his very little associated with non-work related media and objects. The extract describing the box is also different in literary effect to The Red Room in that it describes the focal point of mystery as the Signalman, where as the Red Room is the focal point of mystery in the short story.

Frequent use of commas also break up the speech, allowing reader to pause and think while the passage flows on slowly, whereas more often in The Red Room it is used to make a switch to fast-paced movement. Detail to attention is also important in describing the reason for the solitude of the Signalman, where he relies on the bell to begin his duties and twice ‘broke off with a fallen colour’ to attend to the Line outside, even though no train was passing and the bell ‘did not ring’. In the text itself, the word ‘not’ is emphasised in small capital letters: ‘NOT’.

This emphasis provides an image whilst the reader continues to follow the passage, and if read aloud the emphasis on the word would be clearly stressed to show importance and significance. Being solitary is also a sense of timidity and lonesomeness, which seems to be descriptors of the ghost: ‘left arm is across the face, and the right arm is waved – violently waved’. The use of present tense in that clause is as if he had recently come across another sighting of the spectre, or as if the presence is never-ending and thus mysterious in the situation of the unknown.

Other times are described as being signs to the Signalman of other deaths which later arrived, such as the girl on the train. ‘Look out! Look out! ‘ and ‘Below there! ‘ give a sense of fast-paced movement because of the short clause use, and does not say who is to be looking for danger. In The Red Room, the quietness of the elderly people, the repetition of their speech, and how they seems to reside in the first room is solitary, but brings with it also a sense of mystery, as does here in The Signalman.

‘Resisting the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine’ is another example of metaphorical device used by Dickens to illustrate the presence of a supernatural being or an omen of some sort. But a sense of contradiction is evident in the narrator’s part, where he describes himself as being unsure of ghosts and supernatural beings. He states that the Signalman ‘seemed to make the place strike colder’, implying that the man is not one indeed or has something within him, which he also earlier describes as something that ‘daunted’ him.

In The Red Room, however, the spectre is known to be seen as around him in the space of the room, even though he describes the spirit as being fear. Contradiction could also be seen as being evident in The Red Room, where the senior people are left inside the first room by the narrator to explore the castle further, despite them telling him not to go, yet the return to give a helping hand towards the end of the story.

Both stories seems to have a sense that truth is always hidden, whether it be in lies, for example when the old people in The Red Room ask ‘and you have seen it’ to the narrator; in The Signalman, the truth is hidden in the silence of the ghost and the worry from the Signalman which surfaces as a result, affecting his judgement and post. The last paragraphs of the two short stories differ in many ways, however. Though the two stories are similar in the way mystery and surprise is conveyed, the stories end in either one or the other.

The Red Room concludes with a greater sense of surprise, whereas The Signalman does so with a greater sense of mystery. Surprise is conveyed in the final part of the story when it is the man with the shade who speaks last. His words utter ‘there is Fear in that room of hers’, with the female body referring to the wife of the deceased man who ‘tried to jester her’, and that this fear lives on in that room, which is an ending of surprise, not well known to many ghost stories of the time.

The Signalman, however, ends in a sense of great mystery as repetition is explained and further examined by the narrator, where ‘the gesticulation he had imitated’ can lead us to imply that the Signalman was indeed troubled and the precise actions were so alike in those three image shown to us through the writing by Charles Dickens as being of significance, and does not reference other coincidences. This focus poses mystery upon the whole story, but more so in this focal point, and a sense of helplessness to a solitary man seems ‘no use’ and a ‘dreadful time’ as described by the driver of the train.

It could also be seen that the description of emerging from the tunnel is likewise to similar descriptions of near-death experiences being of a tunnel with a light at the end, or descriptions of Purgatory where the mind can be cleansed of illness, just as the Signalman was cleared of his daunting thoughts. In The Signalman, the sense of mystery is greater emphasised in the entirety of the story with the bleaker setting, whereas The Red Room owes more descriptive elements to the sense of surprise, mostly due to use of frequent punctuation and pause in the sentences.

Both short stories are equal in effect for conveying, but The Red Room is more ‘efficient’ in sustaining a sense of mystery and surprise in that the use of vocabulary and repetition and motifs are far more effective, as well as more literary techniques being used more frequently in this text and the Dickens text. In The Signalman, the descriptions of place and events convey separate areas of mystery and surprise, but not sustain as clearly as H. G. Wells, and the use of speech breaks up the sense of mystery as it can sometimes be misleading in the events. ?? ?? ?? ??

Matthew Chew 10P Name: Matthew Chew Form: 10P Set: 2 Date: 21st December 2009 Title: ‘With detailed reference to The Signalman by Charles Dickens and The Red Room by H. G. Wells, compare the ways in which the two writers sustain/convey an air of mystery and surprise in the two short stories. ‘ Texts: ‘The Red Room’ by H. G. Wells; ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.

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