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.
This castle has a history of unexplained deaths and misery, that, in the tradition of old tales is ascribed to unseen forces and ghosts. The Red Room’s setting is a castle that is almost deserted, except for three old people. The setting is very gothic which is typical of the 18th and 19th century which is usually a ruined gothic castle or abbey. Derelict buildings inhabited by people who neglected their own welfare. The castle was very cold and dark which contributes to the atmosphere of oppression and neglect to make it more mysterious.
The haunted room is very damp and dark but for a few candles and a fire. The Signalman’s setting is a railway which is still in use, set in the countryside. Dickens’ use of the cold damp and bleak setting of the Victorian railway era in which the character of the signalman works leads the reader deep into the mystery of this story. The setting of The Red Room makes me feel more uneasy than The Signalman because it takes place at night in an old castle with candles and a fire as the only source of light which gives more mystery to the reader.
Whereas The Signalman takes place in daylight where you can see what’s around you. In The Signalman you can feel the author preparing the reader for something spiritual to happen as he gives the reader signs from the spiritual figure waving its arms in front of its face. In The Red Room there are certain things that happen that makes the reader think that something spiritual will happen. Like the candles going out unexpectantly. The only characters in The Signalman are the narrator and the signalman. The narrator is well educated as he refers to medical terms to suggest he may be a doctor.
He speaks more formally and the signalman refers to him as, “Sir” so the narrator may be of some importance and probably higher class not an ordinary person. The signalman is an ordinary person but the narrator thinks the signalman may have, “an infection of the mind” In other words mental. As the signalman sees a figure and may well be hallucinating according to the narrator. I think the narrator is deliberately setting himself to get himself in danger or maybe to reassure himself that there is nothing to be scared of.
In The Red Room the narrator is deliberately risking getting himself into trouble. He was not forced at all he was actually encouraged not to but maybe as in The Signalman he just wants to prove his point that there is no such thing as ghosts. The characters in The Red Room are the narrator, the old woman, the man with the shade and the man with the shade. Charles Dickens describes the signalman extremely well, “He was a dark sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows. ” Every little detail of the signalman is described facially.
You can almost picture the signalman in your mind. The narrator is not described at all facially but the reader can pick up what the narrator is like personality wise. Dickens gives the reader an in depth description of the signalman’s personality and appearance. 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. In the first few lines of the story we see that the narrator is a confident and strong- minded person, who is at the same time fair and polite to the others.
The main character in the story is the narrator. The narrator does not believe in anything supernatural but the old characters do. The Red Room is written in the first person, which helps to draw the reader close to the narrator because it gives that sense that he is speaking directly to the reader. This is important for later in the story when Wells needs to make sure that the reader believes the narrator. He shows his confidence in the first line when he says, “I can assure you that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me. He appears defiant when he stands up in front of the fire with his glass in his hand.
Thus the story begins in a positive mood with no indication of fear. However, as soon as we meet the man the withered arm, an uneasy atmosphere takes over, with furtive looks from the man and a very unwelcoming attitude from the old woman as she is introduced for the first time. Then she gives words of warning to the young narrator, that at twenty-eight years of age he has, “A many things to see and to sorrow for. ” In this way Wells is building up an atmosphere that is becoming gradually more and more uncomfortable for the narrator.
At this point the narrator is feeling more threatened, but is making a conscious effort to stay in control. He indicates this when he says, “I half suspected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house by their droning insistence. ” The arrival of the third old person in the room has a greater effect upon the narrator because he finds him even more repulsive than the other two characters. Wells gives a lengthy description of the second man. His reaction to the sight of this man shows us for the first time that the narrator can be shocked and is sensitive to unpleasant sights.
Here Wells is preparing the reader for the changes that will happen to the narrator when he is in the red room. The old characters seem to have a fear of ghosts where the narrator may have a more psychological fear. The Red Room is a very fast paced story. The narrator senses a slight feeling of relief when he thinks that it will be better for him when he is in the red room and he even says, ” I will make myself comfortable there” The twist is that, what he thinks will be comfortable in the red room is far from that. The signalman is very slow paced and takes the reader a long time to get into the story.
The unexpected twist in this story is, what the signalman thought the spirit was warning him that there was going to be an accident nobody actually knew that one of those accidents were going to be his. The dramatic ending is a twist in the tale. This is not what the reader may have expected. Dickens choice of adjectives leaves the reader in no doubt where the story is set and the nature in which the characters must play their part. 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.