The Signal-Man Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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How is the element of suspense built in "The Signal-Man" by Charles Dickens and "How It Happened" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

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Dickens starts building suspense in "The Signal-Man" by using imagery. repetition and punctuation. An example of Dickens distinctive imagery is the description of the signal-man as being distorted: "his figure was foreshortened and shadowed." "Foreshortened” is a term in art that means to make certain parts shorter than in real life to create the correct allusion of distance and angle to give the correct perspective. The narrator leaves the reader with a very vivid image of the signal-man looking somehow wrong compared to how he should look--he is somehow distorted. This builds suspense because it prompts questions in the reader's mind about how and why and in what way.

Dickens also repeats significant words to build a certain sensation and, with the sensation, a feeling of suspense. For instance, in the first twelve paragraphs, "down is repeated twelve times:  "down the Line"; "down in the deep"; "down and speak"; "down at him"; "down to him"; etc. He also uses punctuation...

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