Why is the ending of "The Signal-Man" shocking to the narrator?

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The ending of "The Signal-Man" is shocking to the narrator because the signalman is killed in a manner eerily similar to his own premonitions. The narrator witnesses a man waving frantically at the danger light, only to learn that this man was trying to warn the signalman off the tracks. The exact words used by the man match the signalman’s haunted visions, making the event chillingly prophetic.

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The narrator in Dickens's short story "The Signal-Man" is intrigued by the signalman he meets because of the man's strange behavior. The narrator notices that "a fallen colour" seems to overcome the signalman's face for no apparent reason, and he continually gets up to peer in the direction of a red light as if in anticipation. The narrator is able to coax the signalman into expressing that he is "troubled." After making the narrator wait until a second visit—part of Dickens's means of maintaining suspense—the signalman explains to the narrator that he once heard a voice call out "Halloa! Below there!" and saw a figure waving furiously as if in warning. When the signalman approached the figure, it disappeared. Shortly thereafter, an accident occurred on the line, causing the signalman to believe that the figure was some sort of portent. What particularly unsettled the signalman was that these were also the first words the narrator said to him.

The signalman then explains that this has, in fact, happened to him twice. The second figure he saw did not wave, but held an arm over its face. Shortly after this vision, a woman "died instantaneously" in a train.

By this juncture, the narrator is afraid that these stories are true—his "mouth was very dry" and a "frozen finger" seems to trace his spine.

Then the signalman confesses that "the spectre came back, a week ago," and seems to wave at the danger light "now and again, by fits and starts." This has been the cause of the signalman's strange behavior.

The narrator tries to persuade the signalman that what he is seeing is only his imagination, but the signalman will not be dissuaded. He is distressed at being unable to alert anyone to a danger he is sure is coming, having no power to act and no knowledge of what or when the danger will be.

Towards the end of the story, however, when the narrator returns to the signal box on the night following this disclosure, he is taken by surprise—"oppressed" by a "nameless horror" at the sight of a man "passionately waving his right arm" under the danger light, exactly as the signalman described. This shock passes "in a moment" when the narrator recognizes that the light is not lit and that the man is really a man and not a ghost. The narrator, however, retains an "irresistible sense that something was wrong," and this is justified when he is told—to his complete surprise—"Signalman killed this morning, sir."

It is then explained to the narrator that what he saw the man demonstrating at the danger light was what he, in fact, had been doing in an attempt to get the signalman to move off the rails. This man causes the narrator a further chilling shock—"I started"—with the revelation of what he had been calling to the signalman: "For God's sake clear the way!"

These were the exact words the narrator had himself thought of as a description of what the signalman's waving arm conveyed. To hear these words from the unnamed man, then, is a further shock beyond that of the signalman's death. The narrator concludes by saying:

I may, in closing it, point out the coincidence that the warning of the Engine-Driver included, not only the words which the unfortunate Signalman had repeated to me as haunting him, but also the words which I myself—not he—had attached, and that only in my own mind, to the gesticulation he had imitated.

He does not explicate exactly what he believes has happened, but the implication is that the signalman had, in fact, been somehow seeing portents of his own death.

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What is surprising to the signalman when the narrator calls to him in "The Signal-Man"? Why?

When the narrator calls to the signalman, the man has something "remarkable in his manner. . . His attitude was one of such expectation and watchfulness," as though he is wary of the narrator. It is as though he has seen the narrator before and is afraid of him.

Once the narrator descends and talks with the signalman, the man reveals to the narrator that his calling down from above has reminded the signal-man of an apparition he has seen before because the narrator called out the very words of the apparition. Hearing this in such a dismal, dark, and lonely place, the narrator wonders if the signalman himself is not some sort of apparition. Nevertheless, the narrator establishes a relationship with the strange man, who describes his job to him. Further, the man confides in him that he has seen a man covering his eyes and his right arm who waves violently and calls out, "For God's sake, clear the way!" 

Shortly after this conversation, the narrator sees what seems to be an apparition at the opening of the tunnel. The man stands with his arm over his eyes; he waves desperately at the mouth of the tunnel. After he runs to the signal box, he is informed that the signalman has been killed by a train that morning. Eerily, just as the signalman described his apparition, a man covered his eyes to prevent himself from seeing the train run over the signalman.

The narrator asks the men around the opening of the tunnel what has happened. "Signalman killed this morning, sir," one replies. "Not the man I know?" the narrator asks fearfully. When he is brought to the poor, dead man, the narrator asks how his death has occurred, and the men describe exactly what has happened to the signal-man. It is eerily familiar to the narrator.

"What did you say?" the narrator asks the engineer. He replies, "I said, 'Below there! Look out! Look out! For God's sake, clear the way!"

Shaken, the narrator realizes what occurred is exactly like what the ghostly apparition has done as described by the signalman.

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In "The Signal-Man," why is the signal-man shocked when the narrator calls to him?

In the spellbinding ghost story of "The Signalman" in which Charles Dickens decries the ills of his Industrial Age such as isolation and dehumanization, the first person narrator appears inexplicably on a ridge high above a railroad track where a signalman's station is. "Hallow! Below there!" he calls out to the railroad worker. When the man finally turns and directs him, the narrator descends, reflecting upon the "singular air of reluctance or compulsion with which he had pointed out the path." When he arrives, he detects some fear in the signalman, so the narrator inquires as to the reason for his wariness.

"I was doubtful,...whether I had seen you before." And, he points to the red light at which he had looked searchingly."

After they converse for a while and the narrator gains the confidence of the railroad worker on a second visit, this man reveals that he was shocked by the narrator's appearance because the words that the narrator calls out to him--"Hallow! Below there!"--are the very same words that "a specter" called out the evening before although added to these words, also, is a more desperate warning, "For God's sake, clear the way!" and the man covers his eyes in fear, waving his arm in warning. The signalman is terrified because he imagines again that something must be approaching.

As it turns out, the poor signalman is justified in his terror at hearing the words "Hallow! Below there!" For, on his third visit, the narrator learns the tragic news of the signalman, whose sense has been that the words of the ghost that he saw are prophetic. Indeed, the signalman's fears have been justified. He is struck by a train and killed just as the engineer calls out the very words he has heard from the prescient specter and the narrator at the top of the ridge.

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