The Signal-Man Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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What is the significance of the supernatural to the plot development in Dickens' "The Signal-man?"

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In Charles Dickens' short story, "The Signal-Man," what makes the story so scary and wonderful is Dickens' use of the supernatural. This was not unheard of for Victorian writers; in A Christmas Carol, Dickens uses the supernatural extensively. The experiences Scrooge has with "ghosts" move the plot along and are responsible for his change of heart.

Dickens provides information regarding the supernatural early on in this story, creating the mood. The first paragraph alludes to supernatural forces at work. When the visitor hollers down, the signal-man can't tell where the voice is coming from—it's like a "disembodied" person speaking. Instead of looking up to where the speaker is standing above him, the man first looks down the railroad line, an unusual reaction since the voice had not come from that direction. It is here that we might first suspect that the signal-man has a problem. The signal-man is first described as "foreshortened and shadowed," almost like a creature from another world.

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