The Signalman and The Red Room are well known examples of nineteenth

The Signalman and The Red Room are well known examples of nineteenth

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The Signalman and The Red Room are well known examples of nineteenth
century ghost stories

How effectively do the authors of “The Red Room” and “The Signalman”
create a sense of suspense in the story

"The Signalman" and "The Red Room" are well known examples of
nineteenth century ghost stories. The Signalman by Charles Dickens was
written in 1865, which was the time of developing literacy. This short
story was presented in three parts as it was previously in a
periodical form; this technique was also used to create suspense and
therefore leaves the reader at a cliff hanger after each episode,
which in turn motivates the reader to read on. There were many rumors
about this story as many people suggested that Dickens wrote this
story as a remembrance of the day he was involved in a railway
accident which killed ten people. Furthermore, He was writing in the
Victorian times, when there was a massive change in technology as new
inventions were created, e.g. the Train.

In comparison The Red Room was written only thirty years later in 1894
by HG Wells although it feels more timeless. At that time technology
had improved intensely, nevertheless Wells still imitated the old
fashion gothic literature style writing, which is ironic, due to the
time. Both stories have managed to engage its audience by creating
suspense and tension. Besides that both stories have been written in
first person, this in sequence makes it sinister, in a way because we
get to know the narrator’s impressions and feelings.

The authors of both stories have selected discomforting places in
which to set their story, they are made more eerie because that in the
19th century time many people believed in ghosts and the supernatural.
First of all The Signalman is located in a very isolated place, as the
narrator describes “as solitary and dismal a place as I ever saw” This
suggest that it is a remote, despondent place which is suitable for
the supernatural to exist. Before even meeting the Signalman, the
narrator says “steeped in the glow of an angry sunset” and “so little
sunlight that it had an earthy, deadly smell” the use of
pathetic-fallacy and symbolism suggests that it’s getting dark and
describes a sense of imminent death. The reader is also told it is
“this great dungeon” the oxymoron used suggests confinement; a place
where it’s hard to escape, this therefore makes it more sinister in a
way as dungeons are dark and cold and give a sense of fear.

The darkness prominently reduces visibility between the narrator and
the signalman as said “'I was near enough to have touched him” and

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The Signalman and The Red Room are well known examples of nineteenth Essay

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therefore increases the tension as both men get closer to each other.

The use of sounds also plays a big role in creating suspense as “Vague
vibrations” turns into a “Violent pulsation”. The vibration of the
ground captures the senses and in turn adds more tension. However
instead of scaring the reader, tension is lost when Dickens enlightens
the reader by saying it was a train. In my opinion the sense of
suspense is also reduced at this point due to the change in the

On the other hand The Red Room is located in a castle, not just an
ordinary castle but a haunted one. This straight away changes the way
the reader thinks about the story, because first of all, a castle is
big but in contrast to The Signalman, is enclosed and only focused on
one room: The Red Room. The color red also symbolizes danger and death
which in turn is also used to create suspense and tension like in The
Signalman. The use of shadows and symbolism foreshadows something
might be there and will cause trouble later “The echoes rang up and
down the spiral staircase, and a shadow came sweeping up after me, and
one fled before me into the darkness overhead” The spiral staircase
also raises the tension level of the reader as it is curved, and the
narrator will never know what he or she is facing or going to face if
he goes around the bend. The use of shadows also makes the ghost seem
more alive as it is said to be moving. What’s worse is that route to
the red room is very confusing and foreshadows, when on the way to the
red room, the presence of supernatural things occur.

The language in both stories differ however both attract and engage
the reader. The Signalman starts of by “Halloa! Below there!” it
starts of with dialogue which is somewhat obviously trying to gain the
attention of the reader, as the reader would want to know who is
saying that and he or she is saying it too, which in turn creates a
mystery and makes you read on. The air of mystery is again sustained
when the narrator says “Is there any path by which I can come down and
speak to you?” this again creates confusion and curiosity, in the
reader thinking to him or herself, why would he want to speak to the

Dickens has also used a lot of description “I found a rough zigzag
descending path...” gives a sense of suspense in the atmosphere.
However Dickens, does not always have long descriptive paragraphs, but
has broken the paragraphs in to parts, as long paragraphs are followed
by short thrusts of dialogue between characters. This likewise seems
to help hold the reader’s attention because

The adjectives such as "solitary", "dismal" and “jagged” were also
used to create a sense of suspense, the use of onomatopoeia such as
"dripping wet" makes it sound more realistic and this also makes the
place sound very isolated and alienated.

Emotive language such as “tomb” is also used to remind the reader
about death.

The phrase "Terminating in a gloomy red light and the gloomier
entrance to a black tunnel" clearly shows that Dickens uses the idea
of the symbolic colors. This in turn helps create an image of
descending into hell. The black tunnel makes us think of the narrator
entering hell from heaven. The phrase “as if I had left the natural
world” indicates that the writer himself believes in faith and is
basically suggesting that he has left the known world.

Like The Signalman, The Red Room, also starts off with dialogue “I can
assure you…..that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me”
In Well’s story, he is insisting that it will take a very scary
ominous object to frighten him. As most ghost stories or ghost movies
there always has to be one person who is not scared, and for this one
it is the narrator. This makes the reader want to find out about what
he will do to meet a ghost.

Alliteration “deafens and darkness” makes it sound more dramatic, as
well as the phrase “the nights of all nights”, this makes you curious
and foreshadows that something terrible will happen. The wide use of
metaphors such as “tongue of light” and “ocean of mystery” creates
more tension and dilemma for the reader. This is because, all the
descriptions of the house use imagery to clarify the darkness and
which in turn creates fear inside The Red Room.

The use of personification such as “the moonlight picked out
everything in vivid black shadow or silvery illumination” exaggerates
the darkness and eeriness of the room, this creates imagery for the
reader and makes them feel as if they are actually visualizing the

The use of “candles” instead of light or electricity also plays a
part in using old objects or forms, instead of using modern
technology; this is likely done to create a realistic sinister effect
of the olden days. This in turn makes the story scarier in a way,
because mostly supernatural presents occur by using candles and olden
objects; this also makes it seem gothic in style. The phrase “I could
warn him not to trip over” creates a sense of humor and a break
through, from all the tension, in contrast to The Signalman, Dickens
has no sign of humor in his story, this could likely be because, he
wants the reader to feel insecure and scared all the way through his

Both stories are written in the first person as said “seemed to make
the place strike colder to me, but I said no more”- The Signalman and
“I postulated quite unreservedly that nothing supernatural could
happen- The Red Room, this creates suspense as we get first hand
information from the writer as if we are actually there in his shoes.

The Signalman and The Red Room, both consist of eerie characters. The
Signalman only consists of two main characters where as The Red Room
consists of many. As said in The Signalman “A dark sallow man” it
shows that the narrator is trying to build up the tension as he gets
closer to the signalman. We also learn that the signalman himself is
quite an intelligent man “Worked at fractions and decimals”, this
straight away strikes the reader in to thinking and asking himself,
why would such a person be working as a signalman? This technique of
fooling the reader to ask questions adds mystery to his identity and
builds up more suspense. Mystery is again present when the narrator is
talking to the signalman, but as they talk, the signalman looks away
towards the tunnel a couple of times. This in turn creates an
anticipation to know what’s going to happen next. The signalman is
clearly going to play a major role in this story as he is described
“Not even then removing his eyes from mine” these weird signs of the
signalman prove that he is mysterious and will be involved very much
in the story. The signalman also tells the narrator not to say these
words “Halloa! Below there!” it evidently tells the readers that there
is something about those words, in which they make the signalman
scared. The narrator also says “I will come at eleven” this keeps the
tension as they are going to meet each other in the night, instead of
meeting in daylight.

Contrastively, The Red Room contains more characters, a young twenty
eight year old man, who is sceptical about ghost, and three old
people. The old lady and the man warns “This night of all nights!” and
“It’s your own choosing” which shows and creates suspense and makes
the feel that maybe a ghost or something supernatural maybe present.
The warnings are said many times and also could be a technique of
tension building. The old people are described ;One man with a
“withered arm”… “old woman…swayed from side to side”, other man with
“a single crutch”, “bent wrinkled” “eyes covered by a shade constantly
coughs and splutters” The great description adds more tension in to
the story because the three grotesque and distorted old people make
the setting sound all weird with a sense of decay or death about them
and which in turn makes the narrator feel “uncomfortable” with them.
The young man is also very confident about going in to The Red Room
even though he is warned many times “You go alone” – the old man…
“Very well, I answered” this shows that the young man looks down on
the old people, even though he is suppose to believe them because they
have been staying there for a much longer time. Many clues are given
by the old people such as “There’s a candle on the slab outside the
door said the man with the withered arm, looking at my feet as he
addressed me” the way the man looked down at his feet indicates that
he is scared and also suggest that there would likely be something
there. At the end of The Red Room, the old people have to save the
young boy anyway; this makes the story have a moral – which would
likely be: “don’t be over confident and trust older people”

In conclusion I think The Red Room by HG Wells creates more suspense
than The Signalman, due to the fact it’s all set in just one room and
he has adopted the old gothic literature style which makes it very
effective. Its also has many contrasts because it starts off in
darkness and ends in daylight, whereas The Signalman ends in a twist
which also occurs in darkness. HG Wells has also used symbolism very
well and also ended with an ambiguous ending, which in turn lets the
reader decide what you would think happens. At the time the story was
written, this was a whole new concept; scary idea, the reader is also
is kept interested because he or she wants to know what is in The Red
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