The supernatural story "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens

Topics: Writer

This sample essay on The Signalman By Charles Dickens offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and the conclusion are provided below.

The story “The Signalman,” by Charles Dickens, has the supernatural as its main theme. The author builds up a sense of fear and tension gradually to maintain the interest of the reader. Stories, which include supernatural events, were undoubtedly as popular in the Victorian times as they are today.

This is probably because the reader enjoys being scared. During Victorian times railways were a relatively new invention. People saw trains as huge ogres, because most people did not know much about trains. This meant that some people feared them.

An example of this is, “Just then there came a vague vibration in the earth and air, quickly changing into a violent pulsation, and an on coming rush. ” This makes the train sounds as if it is alive by using personification.

The narrator seems to feel disturbed by it. The author of, “The Signalman,” builds up a sinister atmosphere by using descriptive details. An example of this is where he tells us the, “Cutting was extremely deep,” and, “Unusually precipitous. It was made through a clammy stone, that became oozier and wetter as I went down. ” This suggests that the cutting is very dark, eerie, and not a very nice place to be.

The Signalman Short Story

The language used in the short story is in archaic form. The narrator says at the beginning of the story, “Halloa below there,” “Halloa” is not used within the English language today.

Get quality help now
Sweet V

Proficient in: Writer

4.9 (984)

“ Ok, let me say I’m extremely satisfy with the result while it was a last minute thing. I really enjoy the effort put in. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Nowadays people would say Hello rather than Halloa. Using language such as this is very effective because people have not heard this form of archaic language in quite some time. The role of the narrator is to act as a person that the signalman can trust; he speaks to the signalman as if he is in a powerful position, and as if he is in a different class to the signalman, (The class system was more pronounced in Victorian times).

He tries to find a rational explanation to what it was the signalman claims to have seen. Incredulity, because he begins to trust the signalman. He starts to think that there may be some truth in the signalman’s story. He also starts to show some concern over the signalman and what he may be going through. Understanding, He begins to believe in what the signalman was telling him. Unfortunately this happened as the result as the signalman’s death. One of the ways Charles Dickens builds up suspense for the reader is thee many warnings about what is going to happen to the signalman. The fist warning is the train crash in the tunnel.

A crash in the tunnel would be most unfortunate. This is because the tunnel is dark, cold and harder for the fire service to get to the wreck, so the fire can spread quicker. The second warning was the bride being pushed or falling out of the train window. The last warning was a vision of the signalman standing on the tracks bent over and looking at something or someone in the corner next to the track. The Final warning is not in fact a warning; instead it was the signalman’s death. This suddenly became more personal to the narrator than any of the other events; this is because the narrator knew the signalman, and what he was like.

The signalman’s character is a very interesting one. When you think of the education that is needed to be a signalman, than you may think of someone who has dropped out of school, or failed their exams. However this is not true with the signalman he was, “A student of natural philosophy. ” The narrator found out that the signalman, “Had run wild, missed his opportunities, gone down and never risen again. ” This shows us that the signalman’s character was successful in his education, however he did not apply this academic ability to his choice of occupation.

The relationship between the narrator and the signalman develops throughout the story. Starting form the beginning, when the signalman ignored the narrator. “Halloa! Below there! ” Shouted the narrator, “One would have thought, considering the nature of the ground, that he could not have doubted from what quarter came the voice; but instead of looking up to where I stood he turned himself and looked down the line,” This adds to the sense of mystery as well as developing a curious friendship over the fact of the narrator’s intentions. I am not happy in opening any conversation. ”

This shows that the signalman is a very private, and possibly vulnerable. It seems as if the signalman has been hurt by someone in the past, and so therefore is being very, if not over protective of himself, his belongings and his life that he leads and once lead. Then the signalman decides to confide in the narrator, “I believe I used to be so, but I am troubled, sir, I am troubled. “With What? What Is Your Trouble? ” It is very difficult to impart, sir. It is very, very difficult to speak of. If ever you make me another visit, I will try to tell you. ” Now the signalman asks him to come back, so this must mean that the narrator and the signalman must like each other, and because of this I would assume that they are more than friends. During the story there are several points, which could be considered as cliffhangers. This indicates to me that originally the story was split into several parts to make it serial.

An example of one of these cliffhangers is, “You had no feeling that they conveyed to you in any supernatural way? ” This shows a cliffhanger in the story. It also shows that the story could have been split into sections and put into a newspaper or magazine, in instalments. At the end of the story, “The Signalman,” The signalman is killed. There are a few explanations to his death. One is that he committed suicide. The evidence that I have found to back this up comes from the parts of the story where the bride was killed and the crash inside the tunnel.

This is because he was very upset and depressed about the death and crashes that had happened on his part of the railway line. He was so depressed that the only way that he could see to stop his depression was to throw himself under a train, this was also to stop the guilt of all the lives that might have been able to save had he have been doing his job probably. The reader knows that the crash and the bride’s death was not the signalman’s thought but that’s not what the signalman thought.

The second explanation is that he did not see the train because he was too busy dealing with what he though might have been a ghost beside the railway track. If this is the case then it was nothing more than a freak accident. If there was to be any blame passed than it would have to go to the signalman for standing in the middle of the railway tracks. However he cannot be blamed entirely. The train was coming out of a dark tunnel. Also the train was also painted black. Black the colour of darkness. So the train was easily camouflaged within the tunnel.

Cite this page

The supernatural story "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

The supernatural story "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7