How does the narrator try to explain the appearance of the ghost? What suggests that he doesn't necessarily believe this explanation?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When the signal-man relates his tale of ghostly apparitions, the narrator demonstrates a high degree of scepticism. Instead, he proposes a number of different theories: first of all, that the ghost is, in fact, the manifestation of an eye problem. As the narrator explains:

Figures, originating in disease of the delicate nerves that minister to the functions of the eye, were known to have often troubled patients.

The narrator also suggests that the "cry" uttered by the ghost could have been caused by the wind as it passed through the valley. Similarly, on the issue of the ringing bell, the narrator believes that the signal-man's imagination has misled him. He simply states that it never happened: "it DID not ring at those times."

The signal-man, however, is not at all swayed by the narrator's rational explanations. Instead, he continues to ponder the meaning of the ghost's appearances. As he ponders, the narrator begins to rethink his initial scepticism: "I felt myself placed in the weakest of positions."

In addition, the narrator begins to experience physical sensations which suggest that his scepticism is quickly dissipating, as he says: "a disagreeable shudder crept over me."

The final proof is in the narrator's suggestion that he should accompany the signal-man to a medical practitioner who will certify that he is not mad. This represents a complete about-turn for the narrator: his scepticism has vanished and he has come to accept the chilling reality that a terrible tragedy is about to befall the signal-man's line.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team