Compare 'The Signalman,' by Charles Dickens, and 'Lamb to the Slaughter,' by Roald Dahl and discuss how both authors generate a sense of suspense in the stories.

Essay by sumeetbanker April 2004

download word file, 3 pages 4.3

'The Signalman,' is a nineteenth century supernatural short story. 'Lamb to the Slaughter,' is a twentieth century crime short story. Both have a twist in the tale. In this essay I will look at how the authors create and maintain a sense of suspense throughout the texts.

Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1919. He was educated at a boarding school for boys. His harsh treatment there led him in later life to write stories of cruelty and revenge. ' Lamb to the Slaughter,' is a fine example of this. It opens in a house in suburban America. You know it is set in America as Dahl refers to the Police Station as a "Precinct," and also to the death penalty. The setting has a composed feeling and is described as being "tranquil." Dahl goes out of his way to make it as innocent as possible.

Everything is almost too relaxed, so indirectly tension has already been created. Throughout the text the description is kept as minimal as possible. Much is left to the reader's imagination. I believe this is because the twentieth century reader has access to many more media forms than the nineteenth century reader. For example, if you can associate what you see on television with an object in a book the author doesn't need to describe it. The nineteenth century reader wouldn't have had access to these media forms so there is a lot more description in 'The Signalman.' The story is written in third person narrative although it has a lot of direct speech. This gives a sense of observing the two main characters, Mary and Patrick Maloney. Throughout the story there is no description of Mary Maloney. I believe this is so that the reader can create his or her...