The Signal-Man Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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How does the ending of the story "The Signal-Man" come as a shock to the narrator?

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The narrator in Dickens's short story "The Signal-Man" is intrigued by the signalman he meets because of the man's strange behavior. The narrator notices that "a fallen colour" seems to overcome the signalman's face for no apparent reason, and he continually gets up to peer in the direction of a red light as if in anticipation. The narrator is able to coax the signalman into expressing that he is "troubled." After making the narrator wait until a second visit—part of Dickens's means of maintaining suspense—the signalman explains to the narrator that he once heard a voice call out "Halloa! Below there!" and saw a figure waving furiously as if in warning. When the signalman approached the figure, it disappeared. Shortly thereafter, an accident occurred on the line, causing the signalman to believe that the figure was some sort of portent. What particularly unsettled the signalman was that these were also the first words the narrator said to him.

The signalman then explains that this...

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