The Signalman – Horror story’s really started in the 19th century

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Horror story’s really started in the 19th century. Science was being properly introduced and a lot of people couldn’t get their heads around some of it and it really was weird. A lot of people described it as “Evil”. Also stories and events like “Jack the Ripper” were happening and a lot of people were getting scared. There was a lot of mystery around the time with all the smoke from factories and there was a very funny atmosphere around at the time. There were a lot of factories around at the time because of the “industrial Revolution”. All this mounted up at the time and people got easily scared.

In films, by getting people scared, the films got high ratings (you would of thought that why would people want to go to the movies to get scared), but they all had a “twist” at the end. People will think this is good because they will think that the story is “well done”. This is why people would enjoy the book. The signalman is atypical ghost story, in the way that it also has twists. But it is different. This may be why it is affective. The setting for the story is a lonely signal box down in a railway cutting. Down in this cutting there is 3 places, which are vital in this tale: The warning light, the tunnel and the signal box.

The tunnel is a mysterious dark place. Dickens describes the tunnel and it’s surroundings as “barbarous, depressing and forbidding” he also says, “little sunlight ever found it’s way to this spot”. All these adjectives describe the place as a lonely, dark and depressing place. This is a usual “horror” story setting and gives you the extra sense that something is about to happen and you are wary of this setting. His hut is described as not very big, but just big enough for him. This gives the idea that it is lonely and the man could be vulnerable, not just physically but mentally, this place could just drive him crazy.

I definitely think that the setting is a true horror story setting because it gives you the feeling that it’s miserable and depressing and maybe deep, dark creatures live here. The setting also fits in with the industrial revolution, as trains are largely involved with industry and the book was set, when the industrial revolution was happening. I think another reason why Dickens involved trains was the reason that Dickens was in a big train crash and he may have written a ghost story about it. All these points are good reasons for Dickens choosing this setting and how it was a usual ghost story.

Another stereotypical thing is the character of the signalman, I think his character is a usual ghost story character. He is lonely, strange and mysterious man who no one is sure about. Dickens writes it so not to go into detail of this character so he is more unknown. In horror stories it is all about surprise and suspense, by having the signalman mysterious you don’t know how he is going to turn out. The signalman says that he tries to pass the time with algebra and math because he has nothing to do in the intervals of a train going past.

This may bring you to the conclusion that he could go slightly insane with no interaction with people, it also sounds like he has no wife so he might be even more lonely and you don’t know what he is going to do. “He stopped talking and turned around to listen” this quote from the book gives you the impression he is a bit mad as he is hearing something that no one else is. “The Gentleman” is a kind of narrator in the book and gives the view of the reader and asks the questions for the reader trying to find out who this man is.

When a story is told, whether it’s one at the end of the scale of weirdness or not he still doesn’t believe fully until he gets evidence. Overall the characters give a good story and both have good contrast with each other. “The Gentleman” as I have said, is a skeptical narrator. In the way that he talks and acts, he narrates the story and as a character argues and is “skeptical” about anything strange and out of the ordinary arises. The story is set in the nineteenth century, a time when supernatural powers were still believable so someone reading this at the time would feel more of the pressure.

The scene is set within a deep cutting at twilight and because of the darkness the two men don’t get to see each other properly until they are face to face which is too late if one man kills the other. “I was near enough to have touched him”. It makes you have the “Don’t go down there” feeling so tension builds up more and more the closer they get to one another. Just before he goes down the cutting an unknown vibration shakes the ground “Vague vibration in the earth and air” He also uses a lot of effective adjectives like “Violent pulsation” this captures the senses and adds to the tension.

This could be the final climax to the building pressure, but it ends up as being a train this; creates a lot of tension which is then lost after you are enlightened. The story is written in first person so it feels like it is actually happening at the same time you read it. This is shown when he talks with and about the signalman “You look at me as if you had a dread of me”. You or him doesn’t know what the response is going to be. His speech is described as “seemed to make the place strike colder to me, but I said no more”. He describes it as it happens which ads suspense. This is a weird description to give someone.

Could the signalman be a ghost? As you here about the ghost, the gentleman’s actions are very dismissive. This is true as it would be the natural response, but as they are in a deep cutting, which hasn’t much human contact, you begin to believe him. The man has the same reactions when he hears about the second ghost. “Deception of his sense of sight”. You have the same time to make a decision as he does, but you already know there will be a ghost. The man seems brave and dismissive of things, which could potentially harm him. Maybe too dismissive and this could get him into trouble, but he doesn’t seem like he is a victim.

The signalman has this role. In the end it is the gentleman’s fault that the signalman dies because if he hadn’t called down to him in the first place, the signalman would have looked up as the train came down the tunnel. “Below there, look out”. The first words of the story are the most decisive words of the story. Could it have been fate? And no matter what had happened between the start of the story and his death, it couldn’t have been prevented. “The words which I myself – not he – had attached”. He obviously feels responsible for his death and you feel that if he hadn’t associated himself with the man any of this would have happened.

This is quite a mysterious and even scary thought. It is evident that Dickens creates a lot of suspense throughout the story with the opening words and as he descends the cutting, looking at the signalman whose actions are very weird. Suspense is also created as the signalman tells the gentleman of the weird happenings recently. The settings are very mysterious and even prone to something like this happening. Dickens ability to bring mystery, unexplainable and first person narrative add up to make suspense in the story.

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