The Red Fear


In “The Signalman”, the color red symbolizes the perceptions of the fearful railway worker. For the bold, ominous color of red demonstrates many things including fear and death; however, at first glance, the modern reader may simply mistake this color as a standard train warning sign. This color symbolizes fear and death as Dickens’ writes, “I caught up my lamp, turned it on red, and ran towards the figure, calling, ‘What’s wrong? What has happened? Where?’” (5). Although the modern reader may assume that the worker’s lamp had only one color, red, this is not the case as Dickens’ states that the railway worker turned the lamp to the color red. While changing the color of a lamp may seem insignificant, it is important to remember that the worker is using the lamp to perceive the tunnel through his sight. Furthermore, this fear can be perceived as the signalman asks questions to a non-existent person. Therefore, through the use of the lamp’s red lens, Dickens’ is demonstrating the staggering level of fear the narrator perceives due to the self-fulfilling premonition of his death as he interprets his fear from the surroundings.

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