The most important characters in the short story “The Signal-Man” by Charles Dickens are the unnamed narrator and the railway signalman. The ghost also plays an important role in the short story as a symbol of bad signs.

The narrator

The narrator of the short story is an educated unnamed man, probably travelling as he is staying at an inn. We do not know anything about his outer characterisation, as his focus is not on himself, but on the railway signal-man he meets.

Inner characterisation

Most of his inner characterisation is done indirectly, through the way he depicts his impressions of the signal-man and the conversations the two of them have.

The most important trait of the narrator is his rationalistic view on the world. Though he is attracted by the railway worker’s strange outlook and compares him to a spirit, he still keeps a cool head when he hears the ghost story of the man. In his attempt to find plausible, rational explanations to the man’s story, he comes up with all types of common sense assumptions. He first assumes the man’s mind is playing tricks on him and that he might be experiencing hallucinations, even if the whole story gives him chills: “Resisting the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine, I showed him how ...

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