Suspense in The Signalman by Charles Dickens Essay

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Suspense in The Signalman by Charles Dickens

I am going to be studying "The Signalman" written by Charles Dickens in 1866. I will be looking at, and analysing, how he creates suspense in the story and how effective this is.

"The Signalman" is a short story written amidst an exciting time period in British History: the Victorian, Industrial Revolution. This was a time of great innovation and invention, a time of modernisation and a time of which many of the everyday items that we use today, were invented such as; telephones, toilets and trains. There were several influences to Dickens's story. A year previous to the story being written, Charles was himself was involved in a fatal train crash in
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The narrator is an unknown character, is presumed to be of a higher class, perhaps a doctor, than the signalman as the signalman refers to him as "sir". The story begins in first person, using direct speech from the narrator:

"Helloa below there!"

This speech is proved to be important later on in the story. Dickens uses the direct speech; in the first person as this creates little awareness. If the story were written in third person, Dickens would perhaps have to describe the person speaking, their surroundings and how they felt. The use of first person narrative creates an air of anonymity and suspense. First person allows only one point of view to be shown throughout the story so the readers are in suspense as the plot unfolds to the narrator. The use of direct speech persuades the reader to think about the story. They begin to ask themselves questions like 'who is speaking? Why are they speaking? And who are they speaking to?'.

Dickens writes the opening in such a way that the reader can interpret the plot in several ways. This is a trend that continues through the whole story. The one speaking, the narrator, is shouting to another character that doesn't reply. This is unusual behaviour and poses unanswered questions. These events could lead to numerous plots. The narrator could be a ghost and the other character
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