Is the reader expected to view the signalman's account of events as reliable in Charles Dickens' story "The Signalman"?

Essay by gothicmooseHigh School, 10th gradeA-, April 2004

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The story "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens, is a ghost story set by a railway line. Dickens writes the story in the 1st person, as if he himself is meeting the signalman with the disturbing past. The story is slightly unclear, however, as to whether the audience are expected to accept the signalman's version of events or to question them.

The narrators own view of the signalman's version of evens wavers throughout the story. To start with, he is intimidated by the signalman's appearance and doubts his sanity. Later on he learns of the signalman's background and starts to believe him. Towards the end of the tale he again doubts of the signalman's sanity as he suspect that the signalman is subject to paranoia, and he tries to find logical explanations.

The audience's perception of the story depends on how the signalman's account is read. The genre of the story also depends on your decision to accept or question his account.

If you accept his version of events, the story is a ghost story full of tragic disasters and vague warnings. If you question him, the story becomes a psychological thriller which takes you on his descent into madness.

There are many references in the story that suggest that the signalman's version of events are reliable. The narrator discovers that the signalman is a well educated man, "perhaps educated above that staition...He had been, when young...a student of natural philosophy." (paragraph 12, lines 36 - 49). He also mentions the the work of the signalman, describing him as a man who was unscrupulous in his work, taking great pride in it and ignoring any distractions. "I had observed him to be exact and vigilant, breaking off his discourse at a syllable, and remaining silent until what he...