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In what ways is "The Signalman" a typical ghost story?

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Introduction

In what ways is "The Signalman" a typical ghost story? "The signalman" is a short ghost story written by Charles Dickens and set in the 19th century. The supernatural element of the story reflects the Victorian fascination with the paranormal as a reaction against the rapid advances in science and technology during the 19th century that seemed to deny the existence of a spiritual dimension to life. The story is a true mystery; it can have no solution as is about the impossibility of ever knowing what is real. "The Signalman" is a typical ghost story and most ghost stories have several recognisable features. In this essay I will be answering the question "In what ways is "The Signalman" a typical ghost story?" and at the same time I will try and find the pattern they all seem to follow. Ghost stories have several typical elements such as:- 1) There is sceptical, rational character one who is not at all superstitious and does not believe in ghosts and/or the paranormal. 2) There is usually an unexpected turn in events or "twist" in the story line somewhere in the story. 3) The story is usually set in a lonely, secluded and isolated place with the main storytelling taking place between sunset and the nighttime. 4) Death features in the story line, either people die in the story, or the ghost or supernatural being is the spirit of someone who is dead. 5) The "ghost" is usually intangible and there is only one man who sees/makes contact with it in the story. "The Signalman" has all of these features. The narrator in the story is the sceptical character of (the ghost stories the signalman tells him and instead) suggests some rational explanations for the signal mans paranormal experiences. Towards the end of the story there is a twist in the tale where we hear that the signalman has died but perhaps even more surprising is when we find out the coincidence between the driver of the train and the narrator. ...read more.

Middle

and there is no real reason why he, instead of someone else should be plagued by these ghosts, he is not special in any way. The location of the story is very typical of a ghost story, it is set along a stretch of railway line where a lonely isolated signal box is situated next to a dark tunnel. As described by the narrator the signal box is situated at the bottom of a "steep cutting", with lots of shadows caused by the faint glints of sunshine in the cutting. This is the narrator description of the signalman's appearance inside the cutting from above:- "his figure was foreshortened and shadowed, down in the deep trench" By reading that description you get a feeling of how dark it is in the cutting. The cutting itself is "extremely deep, and unusually precipitate." The narrator refers to the "clammy stone" and how "it became oozier and wetter as I went down." The steep slopes and darkness of the cutting and the eerie sound of the wind in the wires all help to convey a feeling of suspense and tension typical in any ghost story. The location is an isolated place away from civilisation, it's a lonely bleak location and cold and misty with a forbidding atmosphere like the streets of London in Dickens's other ghost story "A Christmas Carol" although the streets are not isolated or lonely. For anyone whose ever read "The Shining you will instantly see that similarity of the location of the signal box in this story and the hotel in "The Shining" which is the main setting for that book. They are both isolated, far away from civilisation and help, bleak and both have an evil air about them, these aspects of location are typical of a ghost story. The mouth of the tunnel is described as having "a barbarous, depressing and forbidding air." ...read more.

Conclusion

It has so many of the patented features of ghost stories, the dark, bleak and isolated setting (away from civilisation and help), the spirit appearing one moonlit night, which also means strange shadows. Then there is the two main characters-one nervous and subdued, one confident and rational. The ghost only appears when the victim's alone. There is nothing the signalman can do to get rid of the spirit and the ending of the story is typically enigmatic leaving an air of mystery. The list goes on, but the typical elements are what makes it such a good read, without these features it would not be a proper ghost story in my opinion, it would be very hard to write a ghost story without any of these features. Personally I thought "The Signalman" was a brilliant ghost story which really made me shiver. It's the little details such as the gloomy red warning light, the way the telegraph wires made a noise when it's windy and the dark, gloomy tunnel were the factors which were particularly disturbing for me. The fact that it was set in such a lonely place made it all the more scarier, but the surprising twist at the end was probably the best part of the story (where we find out the strange coincidence between the driver, the narrator and the ghost). I prefer stories (such as this) which have a surprising ending, which leaves an air of mystery and makes you think and question the issues in the story, long after you have turned the last page. Although they are quite different in terms of the actual story, I'd say that "The Signalman" is probably not as accomplished and well-rounded as Dickens's other story "A Christmas Carol"("A Christmas Carol" has more of a feel good ending than "The Signalman" which I preferred to this quite sad one). None the less, "The Signalman" is more disturbing and scarier and creates a better atmosphere than "A Christmas Carol" which is an essential part in any ghost story. A brilliant typical ghost story. Sion Brooks 11N 4 words corrected by spell checker ...read more.

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