Comparing The signalman to Lamb to the slaughter

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In this essay I will be looking at two stories one written in the nineteenth century “The signalman” and the other in the twentieth century “Lamb to the Slaughter”. I will look at these two stories and compare all the similarities and differences between them, especially in terms of style, content and language.

At the beginning of Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter” Dahl sets the scene very well by using a lot of adjectives, this gives the reader a better description of where and when the story is set “the room was warm and clean the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. ” “There was a slow smiling air about her” From these quotes we can see that Dahl has set the scene and it is happy and relaxed. At the beginning of “The Signalman” Dickens begins with speech, this makes you want to read on I think, he also uses the narrator to make the story more interesting.

These are two very different ways of beginning a story, the readers expectation depends on how they interpret the beginning but I think that Dahl tried to make the reader ask them self who is this woman waiting why is she so happy, but Dickens on the other hand wants the reader to think who is this shouting who is this person telling the story, both beginnings make you want to read on. Dahl creates suspense by building the scene and using a lot of adjectives, this helps build up the suspense very well.

Dickens builds suspense by keeping the characters very secretive so the reader is always asking questions so they will read on this I think is a very good way of building suspense. We aren’t told what Patrick says to Mary in “Lamb to the Slaughter” because this would be a bit of a predictable story, I think not being told also creates more suspense. Where “Lamb to the slaughter” is set (at home) adds to the story it is homely but at the same time deadly because anything can happen behind closed doors “the room was warm and clean the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite.

“The Signalman” is set in a valley like place on a train track this sets a scary mood because down there anything could happen “his post was in as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw”. Both of the stories were written at different times “Lamb to the Slaughter” in the twentieth century and “The signalman” in the nineteenth century so the styles are very different. “Lamb to the slaughter” is written in the third person and so there is lots of direct speech, but “The Signalman is written in the first person and so there is not really any direct speech. I think direct speech is better and adds more to the story.

I think the language used by Dickens, because it is older makes the story more eerie. The stories do have different purposes I think they both have morals but they are very different in the way that I think Dahl wrote his story with a moral but also made the story funny to prove that not all stories have to be serious to have a moral. On the other hand, Dickens wrote his story to warn people. Dickens didn’t support new technology like trains and so wanted to warn people about the terrible tragedies that could happen. Dahl, on the other hand, wanted to express that even if you love someone they can still make you angry enough to kill them.

I think both of the authors use the same sort of main characters even though the stories were completely different! Both of the characters had been very nervous and unsure about themselves. I think the authors used violence and death to put across their stories because it grabs people’s attention and makes them think about what is going on in the stories. I don’t think it is very important that the stories are written in the First person or the third person “she might as well have hit him with a steel club” “I was not sure, I told him that I did fully understand” these ways of telling the story are just as good as each other.

Dickens wrote about a train killing someone because people were afraid of trains in those days, in 1866 trains were relatively a new invention. Dickens didn’t support new technology and trains so in his story he could express his dislike for train and warm people of what they could do. Dahl’s massage had more of a moral to it the concerns about the rights and wrongs murder. He used Mary Maloney as an example that murder is a spur of the moment thing and you can even use the anger to hurt someone you love.

This shows that both writers suggested in their stories that new technology is not always helpful for example trains, forensic science-finger printing etc. For the time we are in now Dahl is more up to date and writes for a more modern audience and often his work is written for television and radio, he would assume that his readers would know what a typical household would look like because they would have seem many on the television.

This is because Dahl’s story was written in 1979 when the TV and radon had been invented “she carried it upstairs, holding the thin bone-end of it with both her hands, and she went through the living room she saw him. ” This quote does not use a lot of description about what the living room and stairs etc looked like because it would be the same as on TV every other suburban household. Dickens wrote his story in a lot more detail because people only had access to books and written words they would need to build a picture of this story in their imaginations, and because this story was a ghost story this would have thrilled and excited them.

Televisions were not invented when this story was written in 1866 “there was a fire, a desk for an official book in which he had to make certain entries, a telegraphic instrument with its dial, face, and needles, and a little bell of which he had spoken. ” This quote uses a lot of description because if you had a TV you would have probably seen an example of a signalman box or a little hut before but because the television hadn’t been invented Dickens had to use a lot of description.

I have found the difference between these two stories are, “The signalman” is supernatural “Lamb to the Slaughter” is not, both writers have a serious but different purpose for writing their stories, both writers suggest that modern science and technology don’t give you all the answers in life, both have central characters who have seem to have “lost their minds”, both writers involve violence and death in their stories to draw the readers attention, and the ending to both stories had a twist which in both of the stories I did not expect. Lamb to the Slaughter” is very funny but at the same time ends on a cliffhanger, but “The signalman” is not really a cliffhanger but leaves you thinking.

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