How is the signal man killed, and what made this death disturbing in Charles Dickens's story "The Signalman"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ironically and tragically both, the signal-man is killed in the same manner as the man in his frightening vision, making his vision a ghostly premonition. That his premonition has been about himself is very disturbing.

Certainly, there is a Gothic setting to this disturbing story in which there is a tunnel

“...in whose massive architecture there was a barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air....So little sunlight ever found its way to this spot, that it had an earthy, deadly smell; and so much cold wind rushed through it...

From living such an isolated life, the signal-man's ghostly tale seems to be merely the imaginings of a man who lacks human company. Nevertheless, he repeatedly hears the bell and sees a specter near the Danger light. Tragically, despite the signal-man's cautionary and painstaking actions, he is "cut down" by a train, and it is, in fact, he who becomes the apparition that he has repeatedly seen.

 

 

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The Signal-Man

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