The Ending of “The Signalman”

April 23, 2018 General Studies

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 specter that had been troubling his friend. But what does it matter now? The only person to whom the narrators 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) engages to convey a final warning is a very striking occurrence.

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The coincidence that the man seemed to be performing just the same actions as the apparition was said to have done, when the narrator appeared on the scene creates a chilling effect. This makes you question if something supernatural did in fact exist. Foreshadowing the impending remorse, the red light is referred to by the narrator as the “danger light’. The narrator immediately looks at the light, after witnessing the group of men. He expects the light to be switched on, thus confirming his growing fear that something was not right.

But yet again, he absence of the danger- alerting light deceives the reader into thinking that all is well, when it is not. Again the element of surprise is put to good use. The author seems to be confusing the reader, telling them it’s alright whereas their gut feeling says otherwise. This rare instance where the author and reader come into conflict makes the story much more interesting. Very powerful adjectives presenting a touch of alliteration create yet another unforgettable feeling. The narrators feelings are described as “flashing self- reproachful fear. These words emphasize the incredible magnitude to which is dread had risen to.

The alliteration of the “f’ sound makes the description catchy and unforgettable. The asking of the narrator for evidence that the man who was killed was in fact the man he knew, gives the readers hope that perhaps the author’s opposition might prove to be true and that in fact it is some other man who had the misfortune of being hit by the train. This further twist and addition of confusion is very impressive as it is very hard to forget the vehement hope that one feels at such a moment. A very important theme that is discussed in this story also has its role in this mint of the story.

The De-humiliation by technology is reviewed by the author when the narrator finds out that the Signalman dies by being hit by a train. The train is unable to be stopped, which puts forth the idea that we humans are not actually in control of the things we create. This is truly ironic for the thing that the Signalman gave up all social connections for to look after and maintain is what in the end killed him. This revelation of how he died creates a dramatic touch, in which the author for the last time expresses his strong views on how the advancement of technology will in the end win.

And finally, the train driver performs the exact same actions that the Signalman always said that the haunting specter performed and says the exact words that had unnerved the Signalman when the narrator had first uttered them. This event leaves the readers astounded. Coincidently, the exact actions the Signalman feared were the ones that the train driver executed. Thus, the author leaves the reader to deduce their own meaning as to what this coincidence actually signifies and whether the supernatural world truly exists. This freedom makes this story truly memorable because we make our own endings.


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