What techniques does Dickens use in the short story "The Signal-Man"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Signal-Man," Dickens uses several innovative techniques to dramatize and emphasize his theme of isolation in a modernized, technological world. First, the speaker and listener at the opening of the story are not identified and don't come in contact with each other for quite a while, in fact, only after the speaker/narrator travels a zigzag path with strange perspective and each suspects the other of being a spirit instead of a human do they come into contact. In dramatic contrast to this, Dickens has the train come into the narrative with thundering force, which almost takes the speaker in the train's wake.

Other techniques Dickens uses are short urgent lines of dialogue that convey a sense of building momentum in the course of the story and is reminiscent of the trains inexorable approach. Dickens also adds ghosts to a modern technologically founded story thus innovatively combining Gothic elements with modern to show how technology produces tragedies that evade human control just as surely as ghostly tragedies remove events from human control.

[For more, read The Signal-Man (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition).]