The Signal-Man Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

Start Your Free Trial

What does the narrator decide to do to help the signalman?

Expert Answers info

Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Lecturer

bookB.A. from University of Oxford

bookM.A. from University of Oxford

bookPh.D. from University of Leicester


calendarEducator since 2017

write2,279 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

The narrator does not really believe that what the signalman is telling him can possibly be true. He decides that it is incumbent upon him, as someone who knows that this person in an important position on the railway is in a strange and disturbed "state of mind," to calm the signalman—for now. As such, he tries to make sure that the signalman, whatever his fears, knows what his duties are and is still able to perform those duties, as a matter of public safety.

Thinking ahead, however, the narrator is unsure of how he should proceed. He doesn't want to tell the signalman's superiors what the man has told him, as that would seem like betraying a confidence; however, he also doesn't think he is justified in simply doing nothing. He decides instead that he will seek out "the wisest medical practitioner" he can find locally and go with the signalman to seek the opinion of this doctor, while otherwise keeping the man's secret. It is with this intent that the narrator returns to the signalman's hut the next day, only to find that he has been killed on the railway.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

After the narrator has listened to the signalman's story, he feels really bad for the man.  He understands how horrible the man's dilemma is and how the man really can't do anything to resolve it.  So he decides to help.  What he decides to do is to take the signalman to a really good doctor and see what the doctor says.

In order to do this, the narrator has arranged to come back and meet the signalman the next morning when the signalman will be off duty.  He does not tell the signalman what he intends to do.  Here's a quote to show this:

I ultimately resolved to offer to accompany him (otherwise keeping his secret for the present) to the wisest medical practitioner we could hear of in those parts, and to take his opinion.

Of course, this doesn't work because the signalman is dead by the next morning.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial