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How does Charles Dickens use the ghost story genre to provoke fear into both the Victorian & modern reader of "The Signalman"?

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Introduction

How does Charles Dickens use the ghost story genre to provoke fear into both the Victorian & modern reader of "The Signalman"? Like many other authors, Charles Dickens wrote from his own life experiences. He wrote "The Signalman" due to a horrific incidence where the train derailed at a high speed and killed 10 people. However, when it came to his ghost stories, he drew inspiration from a great imagination because of his childhood where he lived in poverty and would have come into contact with some of life's different and not always pleasant, characters. Normally ghost stories in that time, would have included monsters or ghosts and these were usually always "evil" whilst the characters were usually "good". Also the fact that a typical ghost story at the time would have the story concluding in a good way because people believed that "good" should always overcome "bad". People in the Victorian era were very wary of all the new modern things that were happening around them, such as the new train network. ...read more.

Middle

He gives the signalman a mysterious appearance by mentioning of his "odd skin tone and thick eyebrows"; this gives the reader the impression of a weird looking man. The Victorians were immensely interested in the abnormal and the thought of man who was less than perfect in looks would have intrigued them. This would have given the book an interesting appeal for them. Dickens changed the way the characters behaved throughout the book, at first the signalman seemed quite scared but as the book progressed his mood changed and he became more at ease with the situation but the narrator became more anxious. The narrator seemed like any normal man. However, as the story progressed people became more intrigued about who he was and why he was there. The characters in this book are not typical of the ghost stories of the time as the stories usually included ghosts or visions of the long dead. The signalman was alive and well, this in itself would have seemed unusual to the Victorians. ...read more.

Conclusion

The ghost is described as a figure, not clearly seen, waving with one hand, while the other hand hides its face. I think the end is a sad one, the signalman was quite scared of the fact that seeing the ghost usually meant the death of someone, but the story explains that the signalman saw the circumstances of his own death, not someone else's. The Victorians at the time were quite fearful of the railways. Considering they had no cars, or planes, meant that a large number of people were actually killed because of rail accidents. This in itself would have been enough to fuel any fear they had. Victorians were very interested in the supernatural, and seemed to enjoy reading about ghosts. Many more people went to church than now and, were quite convinced there was more than just life. The afterlife was quite commonly believed in. As modern readers I think that we can read the book and enjoy it, without the fear attached. We are more sceptical about the idea of ghosts and need proof of sometimes before we can accept it on face value. Carly Hayes 11T ...read more.

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