The Signalman, by Charles Dickens; The Battler by Ernest Hemingway- In what way do the two authors create and maintain interest andsuspense in their stories?
In Charles Dickens’ ‘The Signalman’ the story starts by introducingthe main character (a railway signalman). Another character is alsointroduced: the narrator. Dickens describes the signalman as a ‘darksallow man’ and as having a ‘dark beard’ and ‘heavy eyebrows’. Itseems that Dickens wishes to portray the signalman as a dark andominous figure. However, he then sheds some light on the character ofthe signalman. Dickens portrays him to be very lonely and afraid ofsomething. This is shown in the way he ‘turns himself about and lookeddown the Line’ when the narrator calls to him. It is as if he isexpecting something unusual. The narrator is obviously telling thestory and almost introduces himself to be a very curious and helpfulcharacter. Dickens gives us no physical description of him, but we aretold that he is a retired man who is interested in new technology:like the railway. So I imagined him as being of Middle Class statusand intelligent. It seems he has the time to be interested in the newtechnologies of the time, almost like a hobby. From some of the thingshe says and does in the story, Dickens gives the impression that he isnot a very perceptive person. For example, the very opening line is’Halloa! Below there!’ This is what the narrator calls to thesignalman. He does not understand that this may be starling to thesignalman on a solitary railway line and that is why he does notreply.
Dickens also uses setting very well to create atmosphere, as at thetwo characters first meeting. The deep railway cutting is described a…
…se, maintain it until a point and then let it go in a climax ofexcitement for the reader. However, their techniques of interestingthe reader again slightly differ. For example, Charles Dickens usescomplex metaphors when describing the setting: ‘a crooked prolongationof this great dungeon’; ‘barbarous air’, which was popular at thetime. Even the grammatical and linguistic usage by Dickens is farsuperior to Hemingway. Dickens uses colons, semi-colons etc, whereasHemingway rarely uses anything like that. Hemingway draws on very fewalternative words. For example, the word ‘said’ is used to tell us whois speaking: ‘Nick said’, ‘said Ad’, ‘Bugs said’. This is done tosuite his audience (the working class). Although the two authors havequite opposing styles, they both use relatively the same techniqueswhen it comes to creating and maintaining suspense.