Railways, Ghosts and Charles Dickens’ “The Signalman”
As perhaps the leading symbol of Industrialization, the railway constructions changed the Victorian Britain in many different ways. Railways not only transformed the British landscape geographically, but they also shaped attitudes of the Victorians towards developing transportation technologies. While the Victorians appreciated and enjoyed railway transformation, they were also traumatized because of tragic railway disasters. Different facets of the issue of railway safety, including not only the safe travel of passengers but also safe working conditions of railway employees, were hot topics of discussion throughout the railway age. Himself a railway accident survivor, Charles Dickens was well aware of the weight of the issue. In the form of a Christmas ghost story, his short piece “The Signalman” (1866) directs attention to railway environments, working conditions of railway employees and their influence on the occurrence of railway accidents. This article thus intends to explore “The Signalman” in relation to such discussions regarding the railway phenomenon in the Victorian Britain. Also, it will examine how and why the story combines rational and supernatural narratives through the voices of two main figures, the title character and the narrator.
John M. Mackenzie (Ed.), The Victorian Vision. (147-173). London: V&A
Dickens, C. (1991). The Signalman. In Prentice Hall Literature: The English Tradition. (870-
878). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. (Original work published 1866)
Downes, D. (2012). ‘Excellent Monsters’: The Railway Theme in Dickens’s Novels.
English, 61(235), 382-393.
Engine Drivers and High Speed. (1896). The British Medical Journal, 1(1838),
740-741. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20235356 accessed
Gardiner, J. (2002). The Victorians: An Age in Retrospect. London: Hambledon and
Moran, M. (2011). Victorian Literature and Culture. London: Continuum.
Pope, N. (2001). Dickens’s ‘The Signalman’ and Information Problems in the Railway
Age. Technology and Culture, 42(3), 436-461.
Sleepy Signalmen. (1883). The British Medical Journal, 1(1158), 471-472. Retrieved from
http://www.jstor.org/stable/25262529 accessed 16.06.2017
Wilson, A. (1970). The World of Charles Dickens. London: Penguin.