Suspense in The Signalman by Charles DickensI am going to be studying “The Signalman” written by Charles Dickensin 1866. I will be looking at, and analysing, how he creates suspensein the story and how effective this is.
“The Signalman” is a short story written amidst an exciting timeperiod in British History: the Victorian, Industrial Revolution. Thiswas a time of great innovation and invention, a time of modernisationand a time of which many of the everyday items that we use today, wereinvented such as; telephones, toilets and trains. There were severalinfluences to Dickens’s story. A year previous to the story beingwritten, Charles was himself was involved in a fatal train crash inwhich ten people died and many more were injured. This could, as wellas others, could have been the main influence to the story. Also astrains were a new invention, Victorians were excited and fascinated bythem. A story involving a train would have interested the targetaudience greatly. Also stories including a supernatural element werehighly popular at the time due to books such as “Frankenstein” writtenby Mary Shelley 1818. Both elements of the modern, futuristic andsupernatural referrals both being included in “The Signalman” wasquite unusual. Most popular stories of the time, with a horror genrewere usually set in gothic settings such as dark woods or forests,castles and haunted houses. To use a modern setting combined with thesupernatural was strange and would attract attention to those lookingfor something a little different form the normal.
There are three main themes to the story; the modernism of trains,supernatur…
… to become unstable, deranged andirrational. Most sane people do not report to have seeing apparitionsand spectres. Lower class people could read the story and feelsatisfaction in whatever job they are doing and feel self-importance.The story could be used as motivational propaganda to boost moral ofthe lower class workforce. The use of no finalised ending gives thereader no closure to the story. This yet another way to keep thereader in suspense. Dickens has used excellent techniques in “TheSignalman” to create suspense, and keep the suspense strong throughoutthe story all the way to the very end. Even after the reader hasfinished the story there is still suspense remaining, as they areasking themselves what the actual ending is. This is the result ofsuccessful use of various techniques to create suspense.