The Ending of "The Signalman"

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Charles Dickens, a most accomplished writer, has ended “The Signalman” in a most remarkable and memorable way.

This extract is of the end of the story. Previously, the narrator had been confided in by a most peculiar man, the Signalman, who in the narrator’s opinion is suffering from hallucinations. He claims to see an apparition which has proved to be a bad omen by bringing about two unnerving incidents, which in both cases had involved death. During the past week it had often appeared, according to the Signalman, who was puzzled by what this appearance foretold this third time. At this point in the story, the narrator is on his way for the third visit to his friend, the Signalman.

The author uses atmosphere as a tool to make the ending of this story very effective. The evening is described as “lovely” and “the sun was not yet down”. These happy descriptions deceive the readers into thinking that something wonderful is about to happen but in actual fact they are going to be experiencing the exact opposite. The lack of preparation by the author for such a dreadful event makes the death of the Signalman all the more surprising as it is totally unexpected. This use of surprise makes the story much more outstanding.

As the narrator approaches the scene, he witnesses what he thinks is the apparition. For a brief moment, he believes his friend for he too has finally caught sight of this daunting spectre that had been troubling his friend. But what does it matter now? The only person to whom the narrator’s understanding would be significant is no more. Thus the reader is made to feel remorse for, even if only for a brief moment, the Signalman’s words actually proved true, but too late.

The fact that even at the end, the apparition (although not truly spiritual) manages to convey a final warning is a very striking occurrence. The coincidence that the man seemed to be performing just the same actions as the apparition was said to have done, when the narrator...
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