Charles Dickens’ The Signalman

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Charles Dickens’ The Signalman


I have studied pre-1900 short stories by different authors, which allfollow a similar format and historical content of their time. In myessay I will discuss and describe what necessary ingredients areneeded to make these murder mystery short stories effective andsuccessful.

Short stories became an extremely favoured form of fiction andentertainment during the nineteenth century… In the days beforeelectrical advantages for entertainment, (e.g:-radio, television,films and videos) adventure was generally only discovered/only existedwithin the imagination of mystery and supernatural stories, and wereespecially popular in the Victorian age, where people would escapeinto the mystifying worlds the words described in the stories.(Perhaps these authors’ fulfilled the need for excitement in thisrelatively oppressed society…). It was during this era that manywriters began to capture readers’ curiosity about death, vengeance,trickery, imprisonment, hanging, ghosts and fear…

A first impression may affect/ determine the way the words willcommunicate with its reader throughout a story. So I feel it importantthat the begining of a mystery story must be (engaging, compelling,intriguing, appealing, capture the imagination/ attentions of theaudience) immediately for it to be successful.

Mystery= arcane, baffling, curious, enigmatic, incomprehesible,inexplicable, insoluable, magical, miraculous, mystifying, obscure,perplexing, puzzling, secret, strange, uncanny, unexplained,unfathomable, unknown, wierd, bizarre, puzzle, problem, riddle,abnormal, supernatural.

Murderous= barbaric, bloodthirsty, brutal, cruel, dangerous, deadly,ferocious, fierce, homocidal, pitiless, ruthless, savage, vicious,violent, assassin.

The overall effect of the above ingredients, if successfully combined,will ensure the reader is first drawn in, by capturing theirimagination, and they are then compelled to keep reading until theend.


In the begining of our first story The Adventure of the EngineersThumb by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892) (who is the creator of thefamous characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s detectiveadventures) He tells this strange, dramatic story, which he believes,had been told more than once in the newspapers – to stress howsignificant this mysterious account was. The following quotation isthe paragraph introducing the story:-

‘One morning, at a little before seven o’clock, I was awakened by themaid tapping at the door, to announce that two men had come fromPaddington, and were waiting in the consulting room. I dressedhurriedly, for I knew by experience that railway cases were seldomtrivial, and hastened downstairs. As I descended, my old ally, theguard, came out of the room, and closed the door tightly behind him.‘I’ve got him here,’ he whispered, jerking his thumbs over hisshoulder, ‘He’s all right.’ ‘What is it then?’ I asked, for his mannersuggested that it was some strange creature which he had caged up in

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