The Macabre Ghost: Critical Analysis
Are the apparitions real? Is the signal-man insane? Is it only a coincidence? These are the questions we are left with at the end of Charles Dickens’ short horror story “The Signal-Man.” A person with the immense responsibility of signaling trains outside a tunnel is being haunted by a ghost that waves in warning before horrific events occur. This story is most likely a product of Dickens working through his trauma after experiencing the Clayton Tunnel crash five years prior. The theme of culpability in company with a despondent tone and symbolism throughout the short story illustrate mankind’s helplessness against the inevitable.
Dickens’ story strongly displays the theme of culpability in the characters’ feelings of impotence versus fate. Once the signal-man shared of the ghost he had seen before the accidents with the narrator, he found “his pain of mind was most pitiable to see” and described it as “the mental torture of a conscientious man, oppressed beyond endurance by an unintelligible responsibility…” The signal-man has such strong feelings of helplessness and confusion that his pain is visible to our narrator. Upon seeing this he is drawn to help the man and feels responsible for now knowing what ails him. This becomes evident when he expresses that “for the public safety” what he “had to do for the time was to compose his mind.” Dickens’ use of the word “had” in this sentence reveals that the narrator feels culpable should something happen. This feeling adds to the theme originally set by the signal-man and that is expressed throughout the story. If an accident was to occur because the signal man was unable to perform his duties due to being so distraught, our narrator would feel guilty for not having told anyone and possibly being able to prevent it. “Why not go to somebody with credit to be believed, and power to act?” is the signal-man’s shout into the void overcome with sadness and desperation. It is asked as a cathartic rhetorical question and reiterates strongly that he has no power and no knowledge to prevent the inevitable accident that ends in his death. The signal-man and the narrator embody the theme of culpability that pertains to every person when they have unexplainable feelings of responsibility for events they’re defenseless to.
The despondent tone through the short horror story adds to the atmosphere of gloom and doom illustrated by the events, imagery, and setting in “The Signal-Man.” At the beginning of the story the narrator is shown “a rough zigzag descending path notched out,” with a cutting that was “extremely deep, and unusually precipitate” made through stone that was “clammy,” wet, and oozing. This description provides a depressing and hair-raising picture in the reader’s mind. This descriptive imagery at the very beginning of the story sets the despondent tone that remains throughout the piece. The depressing tone follows through to the macabre image of the “memorable accident” which occured on the signal-man’s line where “the dead and wounded [were] brought along through the tunnel over the spot where the figure had stood.” This part of the passage is as despondent as it gets. The “memorable accident” is the cherry on top of the frightening occurrences surrounding that tunnel and the signal-man in the story. Dickens most likely is referring to the Clayton Tunnel crash that happened in 1861 that he experienced first hand. Events like this are the things that make mankind feel helpless to prevent disasters, and force us to feel as though we are working against fate hopelessly.
Symbolism in “The Signal-Man” is apparent in the red danger light, the signal man, and the reappearing ghost that the signal-man sees. The red danger light exemplifies danger and warning. Red is repeatedly used as a color descriptive of death and negativity throughout literature and especially in this story. The characters stare at the light waiting multiple times in the story. The signal-man is representative of all people in life who feel helpless and unreasonably guilty after traumatic events. Everyone feels the urge to help and prevent horrific incidents from taking place, like the signal-man, but we are not always able to. The ghost he sees symbolizes the wanting that people have to warn each other and do good, but still fail to do so in the face of providence. The ghost attempts to warn the signal-man, but only in vain. It only adds to his anxiety and does nothing to prevent the accidents. The symbolism in “The Signal-Man” exemplifies my claim more effectively than anything else.
Through the use of symbolism, a despondent tone, and a theme of culpability in his short story “The Signal-Man” Charles Dickens writes a cathartic short horror story about people’s feelings of helplessness in the face of horrendous events and possibly his own feelings following the Clayton Tunnel Crash.
History has been known to be full of nothing but traumatic events that took place when our ancestors pronounced that the white color was superior, and every other race was inferior to them. Blood was spilled whenever something was done that did not satisfy the expectations of those who dominated the lands, the race that was granted with the brutal ways of all races would be the Indigenous people. Their once strong ancestral roots were torn from the ground and...
The inspiration of the story “The Mystery of the Faded Girl”, emerged from a book by Jeffrey Archer which I had read and had a similar plot. In this essay, I explored the genre of ghost story. I presented a gripping event in the beginning and built on it to engage with the reader but avoiding to wrap it up a neatly. The structure is made up of some few basic elements in ghost stories within a mundane scene, for...
The origins of Japanese horror can be prominently traced back to the 17th century, which in Japan was the time of the Edo period (1603-1868) where under a more unified rule, arts and culture began to prosper. Known as Kaidan in Japanese, the word directly translates into “talks of the strange”. These are folklore that were often passed down from family and friends as a way to describe their own encounters of the incomprehensible, such as ghost sightings, natural disasters...
In many areas in the world, some towns and cities got deserted after the cease of gold rush or the depletion of materials. Natural or human activity plays an important part in its forming. This paper will try to find out what ghost towns are, how they were formed, and possible solutions to help revive these towns. The turn of gold town into ghost town occur often rapidly and quickly, as fast as the way it gets popular. In the...
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was an eminent writer, journalist and social critic of Victorian era. He was brought up by middle class family in destitute poverty during British industrial revolution. These things had everlasting impact upon his memory. He is one of the literary canons who wrote a magnanimous amount of literature on varied topics. He wrote blatantly about social and economic disparities and stratification. He pinned menace and drawbacks of industrial revolution. Sigmund Freud has been a celebrated neurologist and...
Arthur Miller was a renowned playwright who lived from October 17th, 1915, to February 10th, 2005. His literary career began when he was a student at the University of Michigan. He was the recipient of multiple Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and the Praemium Imperiale Prize (“Arthur Miller”). Miller was also briefly married to Marilyn Monroe and was furthermore notorious for not “naming names” during the Red Scare, despite the repercussions (“Arthur Miller”). Arthur Miller worked hard to “[combine] social...
Sound Design in Ghost Stories “Genres that aim to initiate strong and intense emotional and bodily effects in the viewer (such as horror films or thrillers) produce complex audiovisual metaphors that elucidate affective and physical experiences.”(Fahlenbrach, 2008) Sound design has the incredible ability to evoke emotional and physical responses from audiences, which is profoundly noticeable in the horror genre. Sound is “greatly involved in the production of dread”(Heimerdinger, 2012) and offers a much more inclusive experience than visuals alone, allowing...
Compare the ways in which author Kate Alice Marshall (Rules For Vanishing) and director Adam Wingard (The Blair Witch) employ a wide variety of techniques to explore the genre of horror/thriller and the sense of mystery within their texts. Ghost stories have long been a part of every culture, in every corner of the globe; usually adopted to educate and generate fear, keeping people in line, morally aware, and away from danger, for centuries. However, it can be argued that...
Actually, when I was first introduced to the book by my teacher I look at the title and had the very first thought that is was a very scary one, I assume that for anyone who will be reading this book will find it the same way, but let me tell you something I can assure you that it’s really not scary at all rather, I would describe it as more of a comedy and clever satire created by Wilde....
01 / 09
Fair Use Policy
EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via email@example.com.
We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.