IntroductionA mystery or ghost story is a story that contains a ghost or a supernatural element. Like in ‘The Signalman’ ghosts often appear as prophets of things to come.The Victorian era was a main development stage for the ghost story genre and it was becoming increasingly popular among readers.
SettingTo create suspense and tension in traditional mystery stories the setting is made to feel dangerous, threatening and to make the reader feel scared. Dickens emphasises the feeling of water and damp to make the setting seem eerie and foreboding. For example “It was made through a clammy stone that became oozier and wetter…” adds to the damp atmosphere. The words oozier and wetter make the setting seem unpleasant, cold and uninviting. ‘Oozier’ involves the reader’s senses as it is also an onomatopoeia, you can almost hear and feel the ground squelching. By using the word clammy the writer could also be implying that the setting is a small and cramped space, a bit like a confined prison with the railway cutting shadowed by the steep hills to either side.“His post was in as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw. On either side, a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip of sky…” The way that the railway cutting has been described implies that the signalman is cut off from any real light.The writer uses pathetic fallacy well to create tension and uses it to add to the mysterious mood.“So steeped in the glow of an angry sunset” By using this phrase the writer is portraying the sun as the enemy. It suggests that the sun is against the narrator and does not want him to go any further. The sunset is red and red is indicative of danger. Describing the sunset as ‘angry’ is use of p…
…by the narrator and from his point of view he constantly gives his opinion throughout the story.
I believe that there is another message in ‘The Signalman’ as during the story Dickens appears to criticize the railway. He makes the train sound threatening “Just then there came a vague vibration in the earth and air, quickly changing into a violent pulsation, and an oncoming rush that caused me to start back…” Also he seems to describe the signalman’s post and the whole railway cutting as dark, gloomy and uninviting. “His post was in as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw. On either side, a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip of sky…”In the story the signalman is shown as being powerless to stop the horrible accidents involving the train just like humans are powerless to prevent train crashes from happening.