The Signalman by Charles Dickens, The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
People have written short stories for hundreds of years; however it
was not until the 19th century that they really became popular. Short
stories were the ideal form for writers who wanted to earn some
immediate money and reach a wide audience. As more people were given
the chance of receiving basic education, literacy rates improved and
more were able to enjoy reading. As the technology improved printing
became cheaper meaning that more people could afford to buy and read
cheap magazines. This was in the days before television or radio when
reading aloud was a much more popular form of entertainment.
I have chosen to look at three short stories which were written in the
Victorian age by different authors. They are “The Signalman” by
Charles Dickens, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” by Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
The story “The Signalman” takes place in an isolated railway cutting,
where a traveller meets and befriends a lonely signalman who has a
strange tale to tell. He is being haunted by a mysterious figure that
lurks in the mouth of a rail tunnel, warning him of impending tragedy.
He has appeared twice before and on both occasions the signalman
witnessed terrible accidents; a train crash and a young bride falling
from a speeding carriage. The signalman fears that the figure will
return and some other tragedy will occur.
Charles Dickens wrote this tale after being involved in a train wreck
in which he narrowly escaped injury. The accident haunted him for the
rest of his life.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a very strange story.
The story is about how a woman is driven mad through being trapped in
a room. It shows how the relationship between an oppressive husband
and his submissive wife pushes her from depression into insanity. At
first she does not like the room and its horrid wallpaper but soon she
becomes intrigued by its patterns and what lurks behind them.
The third story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” is a typical
murder-mystery story. Sherlock Holmes is presented with a baffling set
of circumstances from which he deduces the facts and reveals the
All three stories are common in that they are written in the first
person singular. This has the effect of engaging the reader and making
him feel part of the unfolding tale.
Conan-Doyle uses this technique in writing ‘The Speckled Band’. His
story revolves around the character of the detective, Sherlock Holmes,
however it is told as seen through the eyes of his companion, Dr
Watson, providing a good example of writing in the first person.
“The Signalman” is told in first person narrative; which makes the
story extremely personal, meaning that the reader becomes more
involved in the story and it feels like it is...