Mystery in Charlotte Bronte's "Napoleon and the Spectre" and Charles Dickens' "Signalman"
The two stories that I have been studying are 'Napoleon and the
Spectre' and the 'Signalman' written by Charlotte Bronte and Charles
Dickens respectively. Both the stories are set in the nineteenth
century, a period of time when the country was experiencing rapid
change. Bronte's story 'Napoleon and the Spectre' is a story about the
Emperor of France who at that time was a leading figure in society, a
symbol and trademark of France's important position in the world.
Napoleon was a gallant and valiant soldier and he supposedly murdered
General Pichegru. In the story Napoleon comes in to contact with a
strange supernatural creature who entices him and takes him on a
deeply strange tour of the streets of Paris. Napoleon allows himself
to be taken on this tour partly due to his courageousness and the fact
that the ghost exerts a power over him, encouraging him on with
enticing remarks such as,
'Follow me Napoleon and though shall seek more.'
With Bronte's story being on one side of the spectrum Dickens is on
the other as it tells a completely different type of story. It is once
again set in roughly the same period of time when the civilized world
was in the middle of a period of great change as the country was
gripped in the Industrial Revolution. The Revolution saw the beginning
of the steam railway, the introduction of telegraphs and the
availability of electricity, all this was the catalyst for the class
divide to become more exaggerated, with the poor getting poorer and
the rich getting richer. It was also the period in which people were
still generally strict Christians and Catholics, sceptical to anything
new or unusual, such as Darwin's Theory of Evolution. These strong
religious beliefs resulted in a reluctance by people to move forward
and welcome new inventions. It was common at the time for people who
held different opinions to be seen as anarchists, they were viewed as
trouble makers distorting the minds of people and often imprisoned or
As with Bronte, Dickens' story also has a supernatural air about it,
with a signalman who is placed 'at a lonesome post'. The signalman is
shown prophecies about awful things that will happen, which in fact
turn out to be true. He confides in someone about these prophecies and
this is where it becomes apparent that he is an intelligent man who
should not be where he is and his situation is in effect turning him
into a recluse.
"Intently watching of me, he replied (but without sound), 'yes'".
It would be out of the question to warn the rail authorities about
these prophecies as he would no doubt lose his job and possibly worse,
be accused of such things as being in league with the devil, which in
turn could lead to much more than just losing his job. But eventually
these supernatural experiences were to be his downfall when one day he
is struck down by...