Mystery in Charlotte Bronte’s “Napoleon and the Spectre” and Charles Dickens’ “Signalman”The two stories that I have been studying are ‘Napoleon and theSpectre’ and the ‘Signalman’ written by Charlotte Bronte and CharlesDickens respectively. Both the stories are set in the nineteenthcentury, a period of time when the country was experiencing rapidchange. Bronte’s story ‘Napoleon and the Spectre’ is a story about theEmperor of France who at that time was a leading figure in society, asymbol and trademark of France’s important position in the world.Napoleon was a gallant and valiant soldier and he supposedly murderedGeneral Pichegru. In the story Napoleon comes in to contact with astrange supernatural creature who entices him and takes him on adeeply strange tour of the streets of Paris. Napoleon allows himselfto be taken on this tour partly due to his courageousness and the factthat the ghost exerts a power over him, encouraging him on withenticing remarks such as,
‘Follow me Napoleon and though shall seek more.’
With Bronte’s story being on one side of the spectrum Dickens is onthe other as it tells a completely different type of story. It is onceagain set in roughly the same period of time when the civilized worldwas in the middle of a period of great change as the country wasgripped in the Industrial Revolution. The Revolution saw the beginningof the steam railway, the introduction of telegraphs and theavailability of electricity, all this was the catalyst for the classdivide to become more exaggerated, with the poor getting poorer andthe rich getting richer. It was also the period in which people werestill generally strict Christians and Catholics, sceptical to anythingn…
…r particularly interested in what the eventualoutcome of the story will be. I feel it doesn’t meet the necessarycriteria to be a good short story, it is not entertaining norexciting, but more a social/historical commentary of that time.Dickens saw it as his role to write about the plight of the poor andunder privileged and wanted to encourage people to think about socialinequalities. Where ‘Signalman’ has its short comings, Bronte’s’Napoleon and the Spectre’ meets the criteria perfectly, it is short,has the necessary excitement and action to have an impact on thereader, which is what the aim of a short story should be. Brontesensationalises a public figure and portrays him as a ‘bad’ man,consequently it could be said that this story also carries a moral inthat we should be accountable for our actions no matter what ourposition in life may be.