Theme Of Suspense In The Signalman

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In the Signalman, Dickens creates a sense of suspense by utilising the structure of his story. The story opens with the line “Halloa below there!” which immediately engages the reader’s attention as the readers are curious to know whom the narrator is speaking to. The story begins with one question and ends with another. The readers wonder why the unnamed person whom the narrator is talking to, is ‘below there’. This creates suspense as ‘below there’ hints at an underground environment, which subtly lends the story a creepy feel as only dark and covert things hide underground. They also wonder why the narrator calls down to the signalman in the first place. Dickens writes, ‘There was something remarkable in his manner of doing so, though I…show more content…
Dahl’s choice of the phrases ‘unusual thing’ and ‘became absolutely motionless’ create suspense. The first phrase ‘unusual thing’ hints at a vague unfamiliar element in the domestic scene that makes the readers uncomfortable. The second phrase hyperbolises Patrick’s unmoving state, like that of a corpse. This unresponsiveness gives him a mechanical and slightly creepy air. This breeds a sense of foreboding and suspense in the reader to discover why Patrick is behaving as such. Finally, Dahl’s language choices are reflected in ‘she moved uneasily’. The phrase ‘moved uneasily’ creates suspense as we the readers are alerted to Mary’s agitation while the phrase ‘large eyes watching’ implies Mary is like prey that is observing its predator, as she seems to see Patrick as a threat. This creates suspense as the atmosphere has suddenly shifted from a calm one to a tense one and Mary, who was previously seen as the calm housewife seems precarious and wary while Patrick is given an ominous…show more content…
The first theme we see in Dahl’s story is the obsession Mary Maloney has for her husband. Dahl writes, “Glance up at the clock, without anxiety” and “each minute gone by…time when he would come.” The phrase ‘glance up at the clock’ makes Mary seem almost like a predator, in her lair, stalking her prey, with every ticking of the clock which makes pressure loom. The fact that Mary notices ‘each minute gone by’ seems innocuous but subtly implies that she meticulously tracks every second until Patrick returns like a stalker. The phrase ‘time when he would come’ is hyperbolised, given a greater importance than would be expected of a husband coming home. She also notices ‘the oily swirls in the liquid’ Patrick drinks. ‘Oily swirls’ suggest such a minute detail that most would miss but that Mary notices. All of her habits reveal how observant she is to the point of obsession. At the same time, Dahl intends for Mary’s name to be interpreted allegorically as ‘Mary Magdalene’; the embodiment of innocence and Christian devotion. This is shown in how Mary waits ‘for her husband to come home from work’, which reveals her role as a submissive housewife while ‘went forward to kiss him’ indicates that she is a loving person. This conflict in the themes shown creates suspense as we wonder which side of Mary will
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