Mystery and Suspense in Dickens' Writing

Mystery and Suspense in Dickens' Writing

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Mystery and Suspense in Dickens' Writing

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812. Most of his books were
written in the mid-eighteen hundreds and some of them include Great
Expectations, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit. The three I will be
referring to are Oliver Twist, The Signalman and A Christmas Carol.
Back in Dickens' time there was a lack of education, a huge wealth
divide between the rich and the poor, and the environment was
unpleasant compared to todays.

Dickens' creates mystery and suspense in his books through techniques
of writing language, the background, the characters, and the weather.
Dickens often has moralistic themes to his books, in A Christmas
Carol, Scrooge changed from being a horrible man who hated Christmas,
into a nice, pleasant gentleman, who came to like Christmas.

One of Dickens' main techniques is his use of language. He used
elaborate descriptions, alliteration, repetition, listing and
onomatopoeia. An example of his elaborate descriptive writing is shown
in 'A Christmas Carol' - "A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping,
clutching, covetous old sinner." Another example of Dickens use of
language is also in 'A Christmas Carol' -"The phantom slowly, gravely,
silently approached." This is an example of tripling, and the word
'gravely' again refers to death. This piece of writing certainly does
create mystery and suspense. In the 'Signalman,' there are many
examples of Dickens' descriptive language, - "a vague vibration in the
earth and air, quickly changing, into a violent pulsation, and an
oncoming rush." Here Dickens uses many adjectives to create mystery
and suspense. Another example is in 'Oliver Twist,' - "face so
distorted and pale and eyes so red and bloodshot." He also uses many
adjectives here.

There are many times in which you can see the characteristic language
of the time in Oliver Twist, where Fagin is referred to as, - "The
Jew." It is obvious to us that this book was written in the eighteen
hundreds as now, it is politically incorrect, to call someone, " a
Jew." In the 'Signalman,' Dickens uses another factor in which is

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known as "his" style - "That light was part of his change? Was it
not?" He uses rhetorical questions like this to make the reader think
Charles Dickens also uses alliteration a lot in most of his books, a
great example of this is in 'Oliver Twist' - "Face to face, he looked
fixedly".

In his books he uses great descriptions of the weather to create
mystery and suspense. A good example of this is in the 'Signalman,' -
"a gloomy red light." Usually the red light (used to tell the driver
to STOP) is a very bright, glaring light, but in Dickens' description,
it is gloomy. This shows the vast amount of fog that wreathed the
railway cutting; this description creates mystery of suspense. Another
example of when Dickens uses the weather is in, A Christmas Carol, "It
was a cold, bleak, biting weather; foggy withal." Here Dickens uses
three adjectives, often called 'tripling.' In this single quote we can
see many of his techniques, he uses tripling, descriptive words, and
alliteration. He also refers to the fog, as if everything is lined
with it and it is hard to see anything, added together these factors
certainly create mystery and suspense. In Oliver Twist, he again uses
the weather to create mystery and suspense, "the dead of the night."
This is the period of time in the middle of the night when everything
is quiet and the cold, foggy weather seeps through to every crack and
crevice. I think this quote creates mystery and suspense as it again
refers to death.

Dickens characters have certainly played a big part in his success as
a writer. In all three books Dickens uses great descriptions of his
characters to add mystery and suspense. An example of this is in the
Signalman, with his description of the Signalman, "a dark sallow man
with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows." This description of the
Signalman is quite vague, but creates mystery very well, mainly
because there is a repetition of the word 'dark.' In A Christmas
Carol, Dickens' descriptions of Scrooge are not just of his physical
appearance, but by the things he says and does. An example of Scrooges
evilness is shown when a charity supporting orphans visits his office.
Scrooge says, "are there no prisons?!" This is just one of the
examples when Scrooge is brought across as evil. Fagin, in Oliver
Twist, is also one of Dickens' main characters. He uses vivid
descriptions of Fagin to create mystery and suspense, "face so pale
and distorted and pale and eyes so red and bloodshot….. like a hideous
phantom moist from the grave." This description makes you picture
Fagin, and his eyes, his appearance. Dickens also refers to death, by
saying, "moist from the grave." This part alone creates mystery and
suspense.

In most of his books, Dickens uses his past experiences, in work and
poverty, to enhance the mystery and suspense. He also uses hidden
moralistic themes like good versus evil, wealth divide, and the
position of women. He uses these to get his message across and to have
a positive effect on the reader.

A great example of when he uses devices to show direct focus on the
reader is the murder of Nancy, in Oliver Twist, "the murderer
staggering backward to the wall seized a heavy club and struck her
down." This has a great effect on the reader as they will be shocked
at the brutal murder of Nancy. Another example of this is in A
Christmas Carol when Scrooge views his own gravestone, "he read upon
the stone of the neglected grave, his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE."
Here Dickens has a great effect on the reader as now, they are feeling
sorry for Scrooge as he is realising how bad he has been to other
people. The death of the Signalman, in The Signalman, is also a great
shock tactic, "I waved this arm to the last, but it was no use." (This
is a quote from the driver of the train.) This part of the storyline
creates mystery and suspense by surprising the audience with the death
of the main character.

Through studying Dickens' books it is clear that he uses many
techniques to create mystery and suspense. Some of these techniques
include the language he uses, the weather, great descriptions of
characters, moralistic themes and his use of past experiences. I think
that Dickens' most effective use of creating mystery and suspense, is
his elaborate descriptions, of everything. I think these descriptions
really make the reader think and imagine the vivid descriptions that
Dickens' uses. I believe that this would not be possible if Dickens'
did not use such great descriptive writing and many other of his
techniques.
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