Both stories are examples of gothic horror, although ‘The Red Room’ is a more typical model. I say this due to the several gothic elements included in the story. One example of a typical gothic element is the inclusion of a pursued protagonist. In The Red Room, the protagonist is quite a stereotypical type as at the beginning of the story he totally rejects the idea of anything supernatural… ” Eight and twenty years, I have lived, and never a ghost have I seen as yet”. Then, by the end of the story he is being ‘bullied’ by darkness and runs away in fright!
Another typical element of gothic horror used in this story is an emphasis on terrifying the reader. Throughout the story the author lays emphasis on terror by including many scary moments. One example of a scary moment is when the protagonist is walking to the red room. On the way through the corridors he sees something that appears to be crouching down. At first the reader thinks that there is someone there to attack the protagonist. Further on though you realise that it is just a simple Ganymede and Eagle statue.
Another example of emphasis on terror used on the reader is shown when the protagonist is in the red room and the candles unexplainably go out one by one. This leads the protagonist and reader through a frantic couple of minutes in which he tries to relight the candles that had gone out. A further typical element of gothic horror is the use of archaic settings. In horror stories, archaic settings include settings such as castles, mon...
asteries, dungeons and medieval architecture which are very much used to create a disturbing and tense atmosphere.
In ‘The Red Room’ the setting is in a castle, which is very old. Throughout the castle there are passages that have features such as sconces, long corridors, spiral staircases etc. Perhaps the most distinguishing gothic feature of the story is its prominent use of the supernatural. In horror stories, the supernatural is portrayed through common entities such as ghost and monsters. The idea of including any reference to the supernatural is imperative in any horror story and in ‘The Red Room’, the reader is made to question the incidents of the candles being simultaneously blown out.
This is because the protagonist blames this abnormal occurrence on his own fear rather than what would seem the more the more obvious choice, the supernatural. One more typical element of gothic horror stories is the creation of mystery and suspense. This point is another vital element in horror stories. In ‘The Red Room’ mystery is created right at the beginning. I say this because of the manner in which the old people discuss the red room.
They discuss the red room as if they know the mysteries, which the reader is yet to know of, behind the room, “Ay,” she broke in; “and eight-and-twenty years you have lived and never seen the likes of this house, I reckon. There’s a many things to see, when one’s still but eight-and-twenty. ” She swayed her head slowly from side to side
“A many things to see and sorrow for. ” The Signalman’ is an example of a rather unusual gothic horror story. In this story there are a few ways in which the author lays emphasis on terrifying the reader.
One of these ways is that in the story, every death that takes place is related to the ghost. I say this because every time the signalman sees the spectre a death occurs, “Within six hours after the appearance, the memorable accident on this line happened, and within ten hours the dead and the wounded were brought along through the tunnel over the spot were the figure stood”. Another way in which the author terrifies the reader is the story that the signalman tells the traveller. His story talks about the supernatural being itself and the way it horrifies him every time he hears the call, ‘Holloa! Below there! The story that the signalman tells, enables the reader to understand and even sympathize with the emotional entrapment that the signalman must be going through.
One last way the author lays emphasis on terrifying the reader is the way the tunnel is described. Charles Dickens uses words and phrases such as ‘Great dungeon’. This metaphor paints a picture of a gloomy dungeon in the reader’s mind that creates an atmosphere of gloom. Another phrase that is used to describe the tunnel is,’ Lonesome post’. This phrase also helps to unnerve the reader as they are words that are usually associated with hell or a tomb.
One last word that the author uses to lay emphasis on terrifying the reader is ‘terminating’. This word is an example of a word that has a powerful connotation. Another typical element of gothic horror is the use of archaic settings. In horror stories, archaic settings include settings such as castles, monasteries, dungeons and medieval architecture are very much used to create tense atmosphere. In ‘The Signalman’ the signalman himself occupied a ‘lonesome post’ which was near a tunnel that has already been described as a ‘great dungeon’.
Some further description that construct an archaic setting out of what could have been an average tunnel is shown in the following phrases,”… clammy stone, that became oozier and wetter as I went down”. This phrase helps to create an image of damp and moist stone due to ooze. These words could also be associated with the type of dampness and moisture that graves and tombstones have. Another typical element of gothic horror stories is a prominent use of the supernatural. In horror stories, the paranormal is portrayed through familiar characters such as ghost and monsters.
The idea of including any reference to the supernatural is crucial in any horror story based around the indefinite. In ‘The Signalman’, the ghost appears in the form of a man calling for help. When the signalman recognizes and approaches the ghost it disappears, and typically after the appearance of the spectre a disaster occurs. “… When I heard a voice cry ‘Holloa! Below there! ‘… and saw this someone else standing by the red light near the tunnel, waving as I just showed you… I ran right
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