The Signalman Essay, Research Paper
First impressions last. In The Signalman, the narrator meets a signalman frightened about the apparitions he has been seen. After every apparition he sees, a disaster happens on the Line. The signalman wonders what the apparition means. A look into how the narrator perceives the signalman, the conflict of the story and the narrator s realization of the meaning of the signalman s apparition will help understand The Signalman. This analysis shall be done through the eyes of the narrator.
In their first meeting, the signalman made the narrator feel awkward. The signalman spooked the narrator out, there was something in the man that daunted me (p. 741, col. 1) by the way he acted. He seemed to be afraid of something, which caused the narrator to believe that he (the signalman) had an infection in his mind (p.741, col. 1). Despite the first impression the signalman left on the narrator, the narrator wanted to believe that the signalman was O.K., but the signalman kept doing odd things, In a word, I should have . . . (p.743, col. 1).
In the second meeting, the narrator learns why the signalman acted strangely during their first rendezvous. The signalman tells the narrator that he has been seeing apparitions. Skeptical about the signalman s story, the narrator tells the signalman how the senses can be deceiving sometimes, I showed his how that this figure must be a deception of his sense of sight (p. 744, col. 1). The narrator continues his skepticism by telling the signalman that the events that occurred after the apparitions were merely coincidence, this was a remarkable coincidence, calculated deeply to impress his mind (p. 744, col. 2). The narrator tries to disprove everything the signalman tells him with logical/scientific information. (He is like agent Scully and the signalman is like agent Mulder from The X-files where Mulder believes in the supernatural and Scully gives scientific explanations for everything.) The disbelieving narrator offers to take the signalman to the best medical practitioner in the area to give his opinion of the signalman (p. 747, col. 2).
The signalman agrees.
In most stories, the conflict can simply be comprehended. However, in The Signalman, the conflict is not very clear. A possible conflict can be Man vs. Man, in which the narrator opposes the signalman. Although this conflict lacks physical opposition, the contrasting views of the two are considered as conflict. However, this conflict can be thought as a sub-conflict. The main conflict, Man vs. Idea, involves the narrator and the apparitions. He tries to believe in the idea of the apparition, but all data show otherwise. The narrator argues with himself, it was unquestionable that remarkable coincidences did continually occur, and they must be taken into account . . . (p. 744, col. 2).
The turning point of the narrator occurs when he finds out that the apparition that the signalman has been having foreshadowed his death. At this point, the narrator realizes the validity of the apparitions and the credibility of the signalman. Perhaps the narrator should have trusted his gut feeling of the signalman.
The narrator felt apathetic towards the signalman. He proved the signalman to be intelligent, vigilant, painstaking, and exact, yet he could not overcome the inner conflict to believe or not believe the words of the signalman. Unfortunately, the only way the signalman convinces the narrator is by dying. The way the train driver describes how he acted before the death of the signalman confirms what the signalman had to say.