The Signalman and The Return of the Native

My task is to compare and contrast two different pieces of text. I’ll compare them to see how texts from various centuries, can differ. While comparing them, it would be interesting to look at the following sections; opening, theme and setting. Although they are from different centuries there will be similarities and differences. The opening for ‘The Signalman’ is gloomy. The word that gives me this idea is ‘oozing’. Also he describes the stone as ‘clammy’. The reader enters the story as if it’s already started; the reader has no background information for the story.

Back in the Victorian times because there were no televisions, stories were the only source of entertainment. They came out in weekly / monthly instalments, so this might be an episode in a series. This could be one reason for no background information. The traveller is walking in the countryside, and comes across the signal box. He shouts down to the signalman ‘Hallo down there’. The signalman doesn’t look up to where the traveller is standing, but down the track into the tunnel. This strikes me as strange, because you would expect the signalman to look up towards the hill where the traveller is.

The opening for ‘The Return of The Native’ is completely different. The native is also in a car which is different to ‘The Signalman’. The native describes his drive as ‘marvellous’ and the road as ‘unspoilt’. This means that no J C B’s have ripped the road apart, it’s still pleasant and with all its turns in their original state. It’s also cheerful. Unlike ‘The Signalman’ the reader has some background information into ‘The Return of The Native’. We know the reason the ‘old woman’ is throwing boulders at the native is because of his ancestors, killing people they believed were witches. ‘The Signalman’ is a pre – 20th century piece of text.

I think that this story is pre – 20th century because of the way the traveller is treated by the signalman. He greets him with either ‘sir’ or ‘gentleman’. This is mainly to do with the class / status of people in the Victorian period. They used flags to communicate between the signal box and the railway station. There are words that are also no longer used nowadays, this also dates the text. Both of the stories are set in the countryside; evidence for ‘The Signalman’ being set in the countryside is that he describes where he is standing as a ‘steep – cutting’ and ‘clammy stone’ is also another expression the traveller uses.

One reason I think ‘The Return of The Native’ is set in the countryside is, the road he is driving along is long and bendy. There are lots of differences in the two stories. In ‘The Return of The Native’ the ghost is trying to kill the traveller. But in ‘The Signalman’ the ghost is trying to warn the signalman, that there is danger on the way. The traveller in this story is worried about the signalman’s sanity after a series of reactions. It begs to wonder if in ‘The Signalman’ there is actually a ghost. No one else can see / hear the ghost.

Without seeing anyone for hours and maybe even days he may just be going insane. But in ‘The Return of The Native’ the natives beliefs of a ghost are backed up by the priest. He gives the native a lot of history on his ancestors torture to people they thought were witches. The traveller actually says to the signalman ‘ you are far well taught for this job’. The signalman isn’t actually particularly clever, but he is self – taught. Out of the two characters, only one of them is described to the reader. The signalman is roughly about fifty years of age and reasonably small.

The native isn’t fully described, but I expect him to be between twenty and thirty and unlike the signalman very well educated (e. g. through school, college instead of being self taught). The evidence for the native being intelligent is ‘……. officer in the American Intelligence and stationed in London’ Charles Dickens uses very descriptive language. He describes everything in so much detail. Expressions such as ‘…. down into the deep trench’. William Croft Dickinson has sudden spurts of interesting language usage. There is a lot of suspense in ‘The Return of The Native’.

The suspense in this story is right at the beginning when the old woman is launching the boulders at him. There isn’t any real suspense in ‘The Signalman’ apart from when the signalman receives the vibrations off the bell and when the trains go through the station. I think ‘The Signalman’ is far too predictable, although it was a good story. But ‘The Return of The Native’ wasn’t predictable which makes it the better of the two stories, in my opinion. I also felt ‘The Signalman’ was very boring in some parts, where as there was none stop action in ‘The Return of The Native’.