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The Effectiveness Of The Signalman As A Ghost Story

3107 words - 12 pages

The Effectiveness of The Signalman as a Ghost Story

This story utilizes a lot of horror and uses it in conjunction with
mystery to move the plot along and keep the reader on the edge of
their seat. When the author incorporates the horror into the story,
not only is he keeping the reader puzzled, but he is also making the
reader afraid. When an author can make the reader feel like this, then
the elements of the story have been used effectively. The reader's
feelings are a measure of how effective the author has been in using
horror, mystery or any other elements. I will refer closely to two
moments in the story perhaps indicating how effective "the signalman"
is as a ghost story. A complexity arises in the story and that is was
there really a supernatural apparition, or was it just coincidence
that the disasters happened after the signalman thought he saw
something? There is a very powerful opening as the Narrator shouts
"Halloa! Below there!", which are key words throughout this chilling
short story. The exclamation marks at once produces an alarming
suspense and raises tension as the reader cannot acknowledge which
character speaks. What is the significance of this phrase? The name of
the story is "the signalman" but what does it really stand for, why is
the story called the "signalman"? How effective is "the signalman" as
a ghost story? How is the story created and sustained?

The first moment I have chosen is the signalman and the narrator's
first meeting when the narrator is about to leave the signalman. A
sense of tension is created in the story from the beginning; the
questions posed by the narrator are replied by the signalman in such
ways that it develops tension. We get a strange and mystifying feeling
towards the signalman, with a slight uneasiness. However, the
signalman is then shown in a better view, and just as we are starting
to trust and like the signalman, the setting is made uneasy, due to
the things that preoccupy him. There seems to be a pattern made by
Dickens of putting us at ease and then unsettling us, causing
uncertainty and effectiveness, for example the ringing bell (page 3),
the fact that "whenever the bell did NOT ring, he opened the door and
looked out towards the red light near the mouth of the tunnel," the
fact that "NOT" is emphasized suggests that the narrator is quite
bemused by what the signalman does, and the things that preoccupy him,
the narrator seems to believe that when the bell is not ringing should
not haunt the signalman. This emphasis of "NOT" by Dickens is a very
effective technique in highlighting the signalman's preoccupations and
strangeness about him it develops and sustains the tension built
previously. Dickens then shows that curiosity of the narrator, by him
posing constant questions at the signalman with hurriedness. This
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