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The Signalman, By Charles Dickens; The Battler By Ernest Hemingway

2556 words - 10 pages

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.

Dickens also uses setting very well to create atmosphere, as at the
two characters first meeting. The deep railway cutting is described as
very 'dark' and 'gloomy'. Dickens uses an almost Gothic-styled
description. For example, he spends a whole paragraph telling us of
its 'dark[ness]' and how the 'black tunnel' is 'gloomier' still than
the 'red light' This helps create suspense in that we now expect
something extraordinary to happen. Another way in which Dickens shows
this is by making the signalman appear to be a little strange. This is
done, at first, by his lack of speech: 'He looked up at me without
replying'. Dickens continues this suggestion (the signalman is insane)
when he does finally speak. He speaks only in a low voice, adding to
the suggestion of danger. Then he tells the narrator what is wrong:
the ghostly sightings. This again makes us question his sanity.
Dickens maintains this suspense that he has created with use of a
leitmotiv of the red light, which is linked to the menacing apparition
and maybe an accident on the railway. When the narrator leaves after
the first visit the signalman still has not told him the full story
about the apparition. We have to wait until their next meeting to find
out for ourselves. This leaves the story as a so-called 'cliff-hanger'
and encourages us read on.

On their second meeting, the...

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