Atmosphere in Charles Dickens’ The Signalman
‘The Signal-man’ is a ghostly thriller by Charles Dickens. Based on anapparently hallucinating signal-man and the tales of hishallucinations, the story is seen through the eyes of the narrator, aman told of the signal-mans troubles during conversations with thesignal-man himself. From the beginning of the story, the atmosphere isboth eerie and gloomy.
To produce this type of atmosphere, Dickens had to draw on severaldifferent aspects of English literature-mostly through description anduse of language. The setting is described meticulously, producingvivid images in the mind of the reader. For example, when the narratorand the signal-man first encounter each other, the strange, mysteriousatmosphere is set already.
“aˆ¦his figure wasaˆ¦down in the deep trench, and mine was high above him,so steeped in the glow of an angry sunsetaˆ¦”
This indicates that their first meeting is at the onset of night.Also, the signal-mans station is very low down, making it quitedifficult to contact him.
The narrator later asks the signal-man if he can “come down andspeak”. The signal-man points out a path described thus:
“The cutting was extremely deep, and unusually precipitate. Itaˆ¦ becameoozier and wetter as I went down.”
But this description is a mere hint of the stories tone in comparisonto the delineation of the signal-mans station. From this depiction,the reader can easily visualise the setting.
“aˆ¦this great dungeonaˆ¦terminating in a gloomy red light and a gloomierentrance to a black tunnelaˆ¦there was a barbarous, depressing andforbidding air. So little sun…
…¦Surely there is a cruelhaunting of me. What can I do?”
The use of short, sharp sentences helps increase the signal-manshysteria.
Many of the events in the story are written in long, thoroughlydescriptive sentences that include several commas to separate specificevents, and further descriptions. Though sometimes it can be slightlydifficult to follow the story, I understand that this kind of writingwas common for the time. The only time the sentence structure differsis when the story is at a tenser moment. At such a point, thesentences tend to be shorter and more to the point. I think this way;the sentences make a bigger impact.
Taking all of this into account, I believe that the atmosphere for thestory has been well produced through both the description of thesetting, and the usage of language.