Is "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens a disturbing or a mysterious story?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charles Dickens's story, "The Signalman," is a disturbing story, as are most ghost stories.

There is a certain eeriness to this story in the exposition as the narrator's appearance at the remote spot where the signalman works is unexplained other than his mentioning to the reader that he has been isolated for some time and now has "a newly awakened interest in these great works [trains]." That he wishes to speak to the signalman is also rather strange; the reply is equally odd. As the narrator descends, he remarks,

When I came down low enough upon the zigzag descent...His attitude was one of such expectation and watchfulness, that I stopped a moment, wondering at it.

Further, the narrator notes that there is something about the signalman that "daunted" him; in fact, when he examines the man's face, the "monstrous" thought enters his mind that the lonely man may have an "infection in his mind." Then, too, the ghost tale of the apparition that appears each time before a catastrophe that the signalman relates to the narrator is disturbing indeed. The signalman is haunted by the unnerving thought that some dreadful calamity will happen as he has seen this figure again. 

Tragically, it is his own death about which the signalman unknowingly wonders.

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The Signal-Man

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