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Dans quelle mesure Dickens a-t-il réussi à utiliser l'histoire des fantômes et son atmosphère? (document en anglais)

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How successful is Dickens in making use of the ghost story and its atmosphere?

“The Signalman” takes place in the 19th century after the Industrial Revolution when railways and telegraphs were still a newly discovered technology and therefore were treated with suspicion. In his narrative, Dickens expresses his uncertainty about technology and the danger that it might bring. The language he uses is very effective in creating a supernatural and mysterious atmosphere and the gothic elements of death, darkness and dread make it a particularly successful ghost story.

The setting is very significant for creating the ghostly ambiance. The narrator’s exclamation of the words “Halloa! Below there!” plunges us into a dark “unnatural valley” where the rational world of technology combines with the unearthly underworld of supernatural apparitions. The place is hostile and isolated from the outside world; the air is described as “barbarous, depressing and forbidding” and there is so little sunlight that the place has an “earthy, deadly smell”. Moreover it is at the entrance of a “gloomy black tunnel” from which trains emerge with immense power and rapidity causing a “vague vibration in the earth”. This alliteration increases the suspense as we can almost hear the trains rushing out from the darkness of the tunnel in which the characters are unable to see. Not only does the narrator feel like he had “left the natural world”; there is an impression of an unavoidable danger coming.

Furthermore, perception is distorted in this “deep trench”; both the narrator and the signalman can’t neither see each other nor communicate properly. The signalman looks down the Line instead of looking up to where the narrator’s voice was calling from and the narrator sees the signalman as a “foreshortened and shadowed figure”. At the beginning there is also a tangible tension and suspicion between them as they mistake each other for ghosts or spirits. The signalman regards his visitor with “fixed attention” and waits for him with “expectation and watchfulness”. His strange behavior and silence not only make the narrator to wonder if he’s a spirit but also triggers the reader’s curiosity and emphasizes the eerie mood which is typical in ghost stories.

The signalman and the narrator are like mirrors of each other. The signalman, who was always “a poor hand at figures”, believes strongly in the supernatural while the narrator is being reasonable and logical. The signalman tells his interlocutor about the appearances of a “figure” whose words of warning “Halloa! Below there!” and “For God’s sake, clear the way!” are haunting him but the narrator doesn’t believe him and gives him scientific explanations. He tells him that it’s a “deception of his sense of sight” or his “nerves”. When the troubled man talks about the accident that happened on the line after the appearance of the figure, the narrator objects that “remarkable coincidences did continually occur” and the word coincidences evoke a strange mysterious atmosphere.

However, when the signalman talks about the second appearance of the ghost and the death of a young beautiful lady which occurred after it; the narrator pushes his chair as if the lady’s death body was present in the room, laid on the floor. Suddenly


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