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Charles Dickens' The Signalman And A Birthday By Karen Mansfield

3910 words - 16 pages

Charles Dickens' The Signalman and A Birthday by Karen Mansfield

A signalman is a short story written by Charles Dickens. This is a
story about a signalman who is driven “mad” by the environment of his
work, away from sunlight and people. But he was not alone; a
supernatural ghost decides to accompany him too. He has a lot of
responsibilities to shoulder.

There are only two characters that really are prominent in the short
story. In fact in the story, there are only about three to five
characters. The important characters are the signalman and the
narrator. Charles Dickens uses dialogue to make the characters more
appealing and easier to understand. He has written exactly what was
need to understand the story, nothing less or nothing more. The
characters are described physically briefly but Charles Dickens has
described their attitude, nature, thoughts and character to a great
deal. Through out ‘The Signalman’ the signalman’s name is not
mentioned which seems quite awkward. The signalman tells the narrator
about his worries and still they do not ask each other their names. It
seemed a little strange!

The signalman was troubled but it did not seem so if a person who
would have seen him for the first time and judged him by his
appearance. The signalman’s appearance described in the story as, “…he
was a dark sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows.”
He seemed to look perfectly reasonable and normal but you should never
judge a book by its cover. You cannot tell his problems merely by his
appearance! (Proved by the short story)

The signalman is a very peculiar man. When the narrator called him
from the top of the steep cutting he did not seem to reply and walked
down the railway line, “ ‘ HALLOA! Below there!’…/ he could not have
doubted from what quarter the voice came; but instead of looking up to
where I stood on the top of the steep cutting nearly over his head, he
turned himself about and looked down the Line.” This showed me that he
does not get diverted by someone calling him; instead he does his job
first. Later on in the story he also stops talking to the narrator, as
his job comes first and his problems later, “ In charge of his duties
I observed him to be remarkably exact and vigilant, breaking off his
discourse at a syllable, and remaining silent until what he had to do
was done.” The signalman seemed to love his work even if he did not
love his work he was always very devoted to his work.

I believe that one’s work environment or even home environment defines
a person and that is what builds one’s character. The signalman had
nothing in his life except his job; he had nothing to return to his
home for, no wife or children. His work environment was unpleasant and
seems unhealthy and the narrator saw this as stepping into the
“unknown,” “…As if I left the natural world/… entrance to a black
tunnel, in whose the massive architecture there was a barbarous
depressing,...

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