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How Successful is Charles Dickens' Short Story The Signalman?

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The Signalman written by Charles Dickens in 1866 and The Red Room written by H .G .Wells have many similarities. They both have "I" narration. The narrator in both stories do not believe in ghosts but near the end of the stories they each get a little frightened. These stories are mysteries and written in the Victorian era. The Signalman takes place in and around a deep railway cutting during the 19th century. The signalman is the main character hence the title. The narrator meets the signalman whilst taking a walk. The story starts by the narrator calling to the signalman, "Halloa! Below there!" But for some strange reason the signalman looks down the line instead of at the narrator as if he is looking for something. The narrator is intrigued by the signalman and wants to find out why the signalman looked down the line instead of at him. The signalman looks at the narrator in fear and glances towards the red light. The narrator questions why and the signalman tells him if the narrator makes another visit he will try and tell him the problem. The story starts here. The Red Room is slightly faster paced and is a chilling tale of the quest of a brave man to come face to face with a ghost that is said to haunt an old castle. ...read more.


The narrator is not described in his physical appearance but more in terms of his educational background and personality. We learn that the signalman is conscientious and precise about his work. He becomes used to the monotony and loneliness of his occupation and passes the time learning a language and experimenting with algebra. In his youth he had been well educated although he had, "Run wild, misused his opportunities, gone down, and never risen again." The narrator has the impression that the signalman is reliable and trustworthy. "I should have set this man down as one of the safest men to be employed in that capacity." This makes his story seem all the more incredible. The man is clearly distressed by the apparitions and the subsequent disasters, which the narrator explains as, "The mental torture of a conscientious man, oppressed beyond endurance by the untelligible responsibility life." In The Red Room the narrator, who like the other characters remains unnamed. Wells does this to emphasize the physical appearance and the behaviour of the people in his story, because we have to remember them by how they look and what they do rather than by their names. The contrast between the narrator and the old people is very striking and in describing those Wells introduces the idea of fear into the story for the first time. ...read more.


The signalman has two fears and those are ghosts and death. Although the narrator does not appear to have any fears he seems to get a bit frightened at times when something seems out of the ordinary. Dickens uses relatively long sentences. Fear goes through the reader's mind when the apparation is spotted because he holds the readers attention. The signalman was written in 1866 whereas The Red Room was written in 1896. The Red Room shows more fear to the readers in the 21st century as it is set in a haunted old castle at night whereas The Signalman was set in daylight. In the 19th century The Signalman may appeared to be a scary story because the Victorians were very much into ghostly stories. As they did not have special effects on the television or cinema. When The Red Room was written the people in 1896 had radios and were more imaginative. The ending of the story in The Red Room ends in daylight and begun in darkness this may show a happy ending. The ending appears to be very neat. The reader is left feeling happy as everything is put right and resolved. In The Signalman the reader is left in suspense because the narrator. H. G. Wells was very effective of producing fear to the reader. Charles Dickens' short story, The Signalman is a masterpiece of suspense set in the Victorian railway era. Charles Dickens was superb at writing this. ...read more.

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