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Techniques Used By Charles Dickens To Create Mystery In The Signalman

1502 words - 6 pages

A mystery or ghost story is a story that contains a ghost or a supernatural element. Like in ‘The Signalman’ ghosts often appear as prophets of things to come.
The Victorian era was a main development stage for the ghost story genre and it was becoming increasingly popular among readers.

To create suspense and tension in traditional mystery stories the setting is made to feel dangerous, threatening and to make the reader feel scared. Dickens emphasises the feeling of water and damp to make the setting seem eerie and foreboding. For example “It was made through a clammy stone that became oozier and wetter…” adds to the damp atmosphere. The words oozier and wetter make the setting seem unpleasant, cold and uninviting. ‘Oozier’ involves the reader’s senses as it is also an onomatopoeia, you can almost hear and feel the ground squelching. By using the word clammy the writer could also be implying that the setting is a small and cramped space, a bit like a confined prison with the railway cutting shadowed by the steep hills to either side.
“His post was in as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw. On either side, a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip of sky…” The way that the railway cutting has been described implies that the signalman is cut off from any real light.
The writer uses pathetic fallacy well to create tension and uses it to add to the mysterious mood.
“So steeped in the glow of an angry sunset” By using this phrase the writer is portraying the sun as the enemy. It suggests that the sun is against the narrator and does not want him to go any further. The sunset is red and red is indicative of danger. Describing the sunset as ‘angry’ is use of personification, making the sun seem almost like a human enemy.

The characters Dickens used to help create a mystery story are unnamed like the signalman and the narrator. The reason that neither the signalman nor the narrator is named is to keep an air of mystery about them. If you know the name of the character you immediately gain a personal relationship with them, you connect with them. Dickens doesn’t want this; he wants some things about the characters about the characters to remain unknown and to leave some things up to the imagination. In the narrators first meeting with the signalman he generally seems very quiet, cautious and withdrawn, although at first he seems quite normal “… he was standing at the corner of his box, with a flag in his hand, furled round its short pole.” There is nothing unusual about him so far. Then, when the narrator asks him how to get down, he seems quite wary and cautious as he does not reply straight away he just stares at the narrator. “He looked up at me without replying…” This shows the signalman’s reluctance to talk to the narrator. Just before when the narrator shouts to the signalman, the signalman looks round to face the tunnel “…looked down the line” most...

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