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The Signal Man

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The Signal Man Through out the story Dickens has created a sense of horror and suspension in his description of the setting, landscape, physical surroundings and the weather conditions. At the start of the story the signal man hears a voice shouting down to him from up above, instead of looking up in the direction he heard the voice coming from, he turned himself about and looked down the line. This seems rather odd as you would normally look to where you heard the voice. The man shouting down to him, was on a high cliff and he was steeped in the angry glow of a sunset and the signal man's figure was foreshortened and shadowed, down in the deep trench so it was rather awkward for the man to see who he was shout to. The man repeats 'Halloa! Below!' only then does the signal man catch on who is shouting to him, so he turns himself about , and raises his eyes and say the mans figure high above him. It then goes on to say that the signal man looks up to him without replying, and he looked down at him without pressing him too soon with a repetition of his idle question. There then came a 'vague vibration' in the earth and air, quickly changing into a violent pulsation. ...read more.


The signal man then takes the narrator into his box, where there was a fire, a desk for an official book in which he had to make certain entries, a telegraphic instrument with its dial, face and needles, and the little bell of which he had spoken. It says that the signal man was a very well educated man. A student of natural philosophy, and had attended lectures; but he had run wild, misused his opportunities, gone down, and never risen again. The narrator observed the signal man to be a remarkably exact and vigilant, breaking of his discourse at a syllable, and remaining silent until what he had to do was done. While the signal man was speaking to the narrator, he twice broke off with a fallen colour, turned his face towards the little bell when it hadn't rang, opened the door of the hut, and looked out towards the red light near the mouth of the tunnel. On both of those occasions, he came back to the fire with the inexplicable air upon him which the narrator had remarked, without being able to define, when they were so far asunder. This is very strange behaviour coming from the signal man. The signal man tells the narrator that he is troubled but he mutters on how he can't tell the narrator what's troubling him. ...read more.


Dickens use of language here shows the reader, the signal man's desperation. What ran most in the narrators thoughts was the consideration how ought he had to act, having become the recipient of this disclosure? He had proved to the man to be intelligent, vigilant, painstaking, and exact; but how long might the signal man remain so, in his state of mind? Though in a subordinate position, still the signal man held a most important trust, and would the narrator for instance, like to stake his own life on the chances of his continuing to execute it with precision? The next evening before the sun went down, the narrator looked down to see what the commotions was below, at the signal mans box. He saw an appearance of a man gesticulating up to him, with his left sleeve across his eyes, passionately waving his right arm. This makes the reader believe that, that man is the spectre, but is it? The signal man descended down the path at a great speed, to see what had happened, but only to find, lying on a small bed, was the signal man. He was killed that morning by a train. The strange thing was that what the driver shouted out to the signal man standing on the tracks was of the same kind which came from the spectre's mouth: "Below there! Look out! Look out! For God's sake clear the way!" That gives the reader something to think about, as Dickens bring the story to a cliff hanging hault. ...read more.

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