This sample essay on The Signalman Charles Dickens Analysis offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and the conclusion are provided below.
I think the reason this story is seen as a mysterious, fearful and rather frightening is because it is set on a railway, where in the past bad things have happened on railways and train stations. It is written in first person narrative so you don’t actually know who’s telling the story.
The story opens with, “Halloa! Below there” This short, but effective line becomes important as the story unfolds. We don’t know who’s speaking and so creates tension already. The man he is shouting to below looks round to face the tunnel “Looked down the line”.
Any normal person would look upwards in response to this. Dickens is creating mystery, which builds up the tension and suspense. At this time we don’t know who either of the men are.
We know it is a ghost story so which one if any is the ghost. He is making you ask yourself questions, which creates suspense. You are already hooked and trying to figure out who is the ghost. He then goes on to describe the man below “There was something remarkable in his manner of doing so”. This is evidence for the argument that he is possibly the ghost because of his weird actions.
The actions create mystery, which is effective to create the overall suspense.
Also you still haven’t had any kind of a physical description of the signalman so at this time you don’t even know if he’s human or not and you can’t just make an guess you have to read on. The description of the signalman is also quite fearful as when he describes him with, pale skin, dark hair and eyes, you feel quite scared of him, when they say he has his hand to his chin, that is quite mysterious.
You want to know why he has his hand to his chin The signalman is an important character as once they get talking and his actions are very weird to start off with; He stands carefully in the railway with his hand on his chin, not moving a muscle until they are face to face “Before he stirred I was near enough to have touched him”. Also when they do meet he makes no attempt to start the conversation, instead he looks at the red light “Look towards the red light” He seems very mysterious and again pretty strange.
As they begin to talk again the man becomes slightly threatening and the narrator thinks that he might be a ghost “This was a spirit”. This is a very tense point in the story because the ghost’s identity may have already been given away, but the signalman begins to show fear and asks if they have met before. After their conversation the man leaves and the signalman tells him that on his return journey not call out those words. “Halloa! Below there”. It builds tension over what these words really mean to the signalman and why he is scared of them.
The signalman himself looks mysterious “A dark pale man”. This would add to the reader’s suspense and build up the tension, as he gets closer. They go back to the signal box and from his long description you realise that he is quite a knowledgeable man “Worked at fractions and decimals”. If he is so clever why is he a signalman? He is also a very skilled workman “Safest of men to be employed. These questions add mystery to who he really is, which in builds up the suspense. Within their talk, the signalman looks outside toward the tunnel more than once.
This creates mystery of what’s going to happen, and why does he keep looking out of the box? In the first conversation he tells the man that he is “troubled”. This makes you ask the question what is he troubled about and does it have anything to do with his weird actions before? Could he be or knows the ghost? These questions make you think about what’s about to happen? This also builds suspense. On the man’s return visit he is told about the mysterious figure and how it disappeared. “It was gone”.
This long passage describing the ghost’s actions adds tension and what is the ghost going to do next? He also clears up his odd actions (when he looked down the tunnel). The ghost says those very same words. We now know that he is not the ghost so some tension is lost but it is now a matter of if the man will see the ghost and what it will say. He also tells the man of the lady who died in the carriage just after he had seen the figure “Within six hours after this appearance, the memorable accident happened”.
You begin to think of the death and the ghosts and start wondering who’s next? He is described as “seemed to make the place strike colder to me, but I said no more”.. This a weird description to give someone, could he be the ghost? As you here about the ghost, the narrator’s actions are very intriguing,. The man has the same reactions when he hears about the second ghost In the end it is the narrator’s fault that the signalman dies because if he hadn’t called down to him in the first place, the signalman would have looked up as the train came down the tunnel.
Below there, look out”. The first words of the story are the most decisive words of the story. Could it have been fate? And no matter what had happened between the start of the story and his death, it couldn’t have been prevented. The man obviously feels responsible for his death and you feel that if he hadn’t called down to the man none of this would of happened. This is quite a mysterious and even more, a scary thought.