The traveller sees the signalman as a dark sallow man with a dark beard and bushy eyebrows. The traveller is quite daunted by the signalman and finds it difficult to initially address him. The traveller also has the thought that the signalman may be some kind of ghost himself.
He also initially believed that the signalman might have been mentally deranged; “I have speculated since, whether there may have been infection in his mind”. The traveller believes the signalman to be well educated or he has an inclination to such an effect.This turns out to be true, the signalman was indeed well educated but he had squandered his chances; “a student of natural philosophy, and had attended lectures: but had run wild, misused his opportunities, gone down and never risen again”. The traveller is intrigued and interested by the signalman though when he hears the signalman’s ghost stories of the spectre and the untimely, unfortunate and disastrous accidents that follow its appearance he becomes quite concerned over the signalman.
He tries to explain to the signalman that the events which have occurred must have some kind of logical explanation. On his final visit the traveller has the distinct intention to persuade the signalman to visit a doctor. The traveller thought of recommending to the signalman that he refer himself to someone in the medical profession after he realised the worry and acute consternation the horrifying, haunting experiences had caused the signalman.
The traveller never actually sets eyes upon the spectre the signalman relays a detailed account upon him; not of the spectres appearance but of its mysterious, extraordinary, perplexing behaviour of ringing the bell in the signalman’s hut and then appearing at the entrance to the train tunnel and crying out ‘for god’s sake clear the way’ immediately proceeding the occurrence of a horrific, deadly event The spectre is a haunting vision of acute irony.It is a warning to the signalman about his own vulnerable mortality. Though whether it is real or just the concoction of the signalman’s irrational mind is truly a mystery. The irony of the spectre is that the signalman truly believes that it is a warning to the occurrence of horrific events and not to him-self.
As when he hears the message for real he believes it is a warning form the spectre and for this he pays the ultimate price; he is knocked down by a train and killed.At the beginning of the story the signalman even mistakes the travellers calling’s for the ghostly re-appearance of the spectre “but instead of looking up to where I stood on the top of the steep cutting nearly over his head, he turned himself about and looked down the line” (down the line, in front of the train tunnel is the place where the spectre appears). “The signalman” is a highly descriptive piece of writing from the 19th century. The language used is highly descriptive though the story still flows well.
Being from the 19th century the writing has a high degree of complexity although it is relatively simple to understand.A downside of this particular writing style is that in certain parts the writing becomes over descriptive; “a dripping wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip of sky; the perspective one way only a crooked prolongation of this great dungeon; the shorter perspective in the other direction terminating in a gloomy red light”. This can result in a story with a tendency to, go on for too long and therefore become boring. The ending of the signalman is one of bitter irony; the signalman is thrust into the jaws of death at the moment when he might finally be liberated from his grim life of horror and uncertainty.The traveller has decided that he is compelled to ensure the signalman visits a discreet medical practitioner who will help him with his impending problem, the traveller believes is caused by an illness of the mind. “I ultimately resolved to offer to accompany him (otherwise keeping his secret for the present) to the wisest medical practitioner we could hear of in those parts, and to take his opinion”. The traveller is utterly mesmerized by the disturbing, ghostly coincidence of the preceding events and their link to the signalman’s ultimate downfall.