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Examine the supernatural and rational interpretations that seem to explain events in 'The Signalman' and 'The Red Room'.

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Introduction

Examine the supernatural and rational interpretations that seem to explain events in 'The Signalman' and 'The Red Room'. How far have Charles Dickens and H. G. Wells achieved a balance between these different outlooks through the characters and narrative development in their stories, and particularly in their endings? The stories 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens and 'The Red Room' by H G Wells are similar in the balance between the supernatural and rational. In 'The Signalman' there is a ghost or vision that gives warnings to an impending accident on the train line. After various warnings the signalman, who sees the visions is killed by a train. The story leads us down a path, which never reveals which explanation the writer wanted the story to be based around. This is similar to 'The Red Room'. It also has a story that mixes the rational and supernatural, without telling the reader which one to believe. The story is of a man, who is trying to prove that a room in a mansion is not actually haunted, by staying in the room over night. During the night various things happens, leading to the man being injured and knocked out. In both stories the mix of rational and supernatural are combined so you are never sure which one to believe. In 'The Signalman' you are told of two visions witnessed by the signalman. ...read more.

Middle

The ghost was not just blowing the candles out but it was 'as if the wicks had been suddenly nipped between a finger and thumb', which suggest that it was not a draught, as it left 'the wick neither glowing nor smoking'. As the candles go out, there were more shadows in the room, causing more fear in the man. As the 'shadows seemed to take another step towards (him)', he begins to become more agitated. This adds to the supernatural feeling of the story. To balance out the supernatural in both stories there are many rational excuses for the happenings in both stories. In 'The Signalman' most of the happenings are explained with a rational excuse, usually by the narrator. After the signalman explained the first story of the vision followed by the accident the narrator dismisses the incident as a 'remarkable coincidence'. The signalman continues to the second story of the death of the woman, preceded by a vision. However, after listening to both stories, the narrator now has 'nothing to say' and cannot dismiss them both as a coincidence. The narrator also tries to tell himself that the signalman may actually just be mentally disturbed and the visions were 'infection in his mind'. He is trying to dismiss them as not actually true. He also tries another excuse. He believes that the visions may be a 'deception of his sense of sight' and based on shadows and light causing strange shapes. ...read more.

Conclusion

He does call them 'curious circumstances' yet also claims that it was 'coincidence' that he said those words. By leaving the narrator in mixed minds about the true reasons for the visions or deaths, the writer also leaves the reader in two minds about what happened. In 'The Red Room' the narrator tries to reject the idea of a supernatural presence in the room. When he is asked if it is a ghost that is present in the room, he replies that 'there is no ghost there at all'. But after he says this he feels the bandages the housekeepers put over his wounds. This leads the reader to think that there was a presence in the room in order to give the man wounds. The narrator tries to dismiss the idea of a ghost as actually just 'Fear' that is only in the minds of the people who enter the room. Was it 'fear' of there actually being a ghost that caused the man to make himself go delirious and blow the candles out himself with the breeze he produced? The narrator himself is believes that it was the fear in his head that caused him to be scared and knock himself out. However, the writer again leaves it up to you to decide which interpretation to believe, as in 'The Signalman'. Both stories leave you a balanced interpretation of what happened and it is up to the reader to decide what one they wish to believe in. Howard Roof 10T English ...read more.

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