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The Signalman: A Short Story by Charles Dickens with PDF Link

Charles Dickens the Signalman PDF: A Classic Ghost Story

Do you enjoy reading ghost stories that send shivers down your spine? If so, you might want to check out The Signalman, a short story by Charles Dickens. This story is one of the most famous and influential examples of Victorian Gothic literature, and it has been adapted into various media over the years. In this article, we will explore who Charles Dickens was, what The Signalman is about, why it is a classic ghost story, and how you can read it online for free.

charles dickens the signalman pdf


Who was Charles Dickens?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was one of the most popular and prolific writers of the 19th century. He wrote novels, short stories, essays, and articles that depicted the social and economic realities of Victorian England. Some of his most famous works include Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. He was also a keen observer of human nature and psychology, and he created memorable characters that have become part of the cultural imagination.

What is The Signalman?

The Signalman is a short story that was first published in 1866 in a magazine called All the Year Round, which was edited by Dickens himself. It is part of a collection called Mugby Junction, which consists of seven stories that are all set around a railway station. The Signalman is the most famous and acclaimed story in the collection, and it has been praised for its suspenseful plot, atmospheric setting, and psychological depth.

Why is The Signalman a classic ghost story?

The Signalman is a classic ghost story because it follows some of the conventions and elements of the Gothic genre, which originated in the 18th century and flourished in the 19th century. Gothic literature typically features dark and mysterious settings, supernatural events, psychological terror, and themes of death, madness, and isolation. The Signalman has all these elements, as it takes place in a lonely railway cutting, involves a haunting apparition, creates a sense of dread and uncertainty, and explores the effects of fear and guilt on the human mind.

Summary of The Signalman

The narrator meets the signalman

The story begins with an unnamed narrator calling out to a signalman who works at a railway station. The narrator is curious about the signalman's job and wants to talk to him. However, he notices that the signalman seems nervous and distracted, and he does not respond to his greeting at first. When he finally does, he asks the narrator how he knew his voice. The narrator is puzzled by this question, but he follows the signalman down to his post.

The signalman tells his story

The narrator and the signalman have a friendly conversation, and the narrator learns that the signalman is a well-educated and intelligent man who has fallen on hard times. He also learns that the signalman is troubled by a strange phenomenon: he sees a ghostly figure that appears on the railway line and warns him of impending disasters. The signalman says that he has seen the figure twice before, and each time, it was followed by a terrible accident: once, a train crash that killed many people, and another time, a young woman's death on a passing train. The signalman says that he is haunted by the figure's gestures and words, which are "Halloa! Below there! Look out! Look out! For God's sake, clear the way!"

The narrator tries to help the signalman

The narrator is skeptical of the signalman's story, and he tries to rationalize it as a result of optical illusions, atmospheric conditions, or mental stress. He suggests that the signalman should see a doctor or report his situation to his superiors. He also offers to visit him again the next day and keep him company. The signalman is grateful for the narrator's kindness, but he is reluctant to take any action. He says that he is afraid of being dismissed or ridiculed, and he hopes that the figure will not appear again.

The signalman's fate

The next day, the narrator returns to the railway station, but he finds a group of men gathered around the signalman's post. He learns that the signalman has been killed by an oncoming train. The driver of the train tells the narrator that he saw the signalman standing on the track, and he tried to warn him by waving his arm and shouting "Halloa! Below there! Look out! Look out! For God's sake, clear the way!" The narrator is shocked and horrified by this coincidence, and he wonders if the signalman had seen the figure again, or if he had mistaken the driver's gestures for those of the ghost.

Analysis of The Signalman

Themes and symbols

Some of the themes and symbols in The Signalman are:

  • Fear and guilt: The signalman is tormented by fear and guilt, as he feels powerless and responsible for the accidents that happen on his watch. He also fears that he might be losing his sanity or that he might be punished for some unknown sin. His fear and guilt prevent him from seeking help or escaping his situation.

  • Communication and misunderstanding: The story explores the difficulties and dangers of communication and misunderstanding, as the narrator and the signalman fail to understand each other's perspectives and motives. The signalman also misinterprets the signals of the ghost and the driver, which leads to his death.

  • Technology and progress: The story reflects the ambivalence and anxiety that Victorian society felt towards technology and progress, especially in relation to railways. Railways were seen as symbols of modernity and innovation, but also as sources of noise, pollution, and danger. The story suggests that technology can have unforeseen and tragic consequences, and that it can create a sense of alienation and isolation.

  • The red light: The red light is a symbol of danger, death, and blood. It is also a symbol of the ghost's presence and warning. The red light contrasts with the darkness of the tunnel and the cutting, creating a striking visual effect.

Characters and setting

The story has only two main characters: the narrator and the signalman. They are both unnamed, which creates a sense of anonymity and universality. They are also both outsiders in their own ways: the narrator is a traveler who does not belong to the railway world, while the signalman is a solitary worker who does not fit in with his social class or profession. They have different personalities and backgrounds: the narrator is rational, curious, and friendly, while the signalman is emotional, secretive, and melancholic.

The setting of the story is a railway cutting near a tunnel. It is a bleak and gloomy place, with jagged stones, damp walls, and no view but a strip of sky. It is also a dangerous place, where trains pass by at high speed and accidents occur frequently. The setting creates a sense of claustrophobia, isolation, and dread.

Style and tone

```html Robert Louis Stevenson, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

  • The story has been referenced and parodied in various works of popular culture, such as The Simpsons, Doctor Who, and Monty Python's Flying Circus.



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