The Red Room, which is the pre-1914 text, is entirely set within a large country house. On the first page the house is clearly described to the reader including “a creaking door”, “a queer old mirror” as well as revolting characters with grotesque physical deformities such as “a withered arm” and “decaying yellow teeth”.Farthing House was written after 1914 and therefore it is a more modern story.
The author’s mention of cars reminds us of this, “I had seen no other car since leaving the cathedral town seven miles back on the main road.” This story is mainly set within ‘Farthing House’, an individual, private home that is described by the main character as “well run, warm and comfortable”. It is also described as having “good, substantial pieces” of “well-cared for” furniture and antiques in the hall and as fairly peaceful. “It was quiet to, there was no rattling of trolley or buzzing of bells.”Each author employs various methods to keep the reader guessing about what may happen next.
The feeling of uncertainty is maintained throughout ‘The Red Room’, which helps to develop tension. The quality of H.G Well’s writing is slightly erratic, which adds to this uncertainty. One moment a sense of anxiety is built up, “A bronze group stood upon the landing..
.and gave me the impression of someone crouching to waylay me”, and the next it changes into a feeling of security and relaxation, “I advanced, only to discover a Ganymede and Eagle glistening in the moonlight.” This method of employing an irregular pattern of uncertainty helps to...
keep the reader guessing and thus maintaining their engagement throughout the story.In ‘Farthing House’ there is a conflict in mood on arrival at the house and when Mrs Flower enters. On arrival feelings such as a ‘curious sadness’ and ‘apprehension’ prevail whilst words such as ‘melancholy’ and ‘sadness’ help to set the mood. However, the pleasant atmosphere inside the house overcomes these eerie feelings with warm, welcoming smells, such as the “rich baking smells”, “furniture polish and “fresh chrysanthemums”.
The main character no longer senses these dark emotions and feels welcomed into the house. “The smells that greeted me were all of a piece with the rest of the welcome.” Her emotions now inside the house are reiterated further on with her mention of, “Farthing House was well run, warm and comfortable” and “The rooms were spacious, the other residents pleasant but not over-obtrusive.”H.G. Wells relies heavily on anticipation to create tension, whereas Susan Hill’s attention to detail is key in sustaining her reader’s engagement.
At some points she withdraws some details and thus develops tension through her writing.She begins her tale by saying, “I have never told anyone, and indeed, writing it down and sealing it up in envelope to be read at some future date may still not count as ‘telling’.” This intrigues the reader; so they want to read on to find out why she hasn’t told anyone, or why she feels she has to seal her story up.The extent of detail in both stories is very different. In the Red Room we are told very little abou
the main character apart from things such as he has an ‘open-mind’, is 28 years old, and it would take ‘a lot to frighten’ him.
We can deduce that he may be a sceptic and we are witness to the emotional changes he feels due to his fear. The narrator says, ” ‘I can assure you,’ said I, ‘that it would take a very tangible ghost to frighten me’ “, which shows the arrogance of his character.In ‘The Red Room’ detail is focused mainly on the setting of the story and not on the main character. “The long, draughty, subterranean passage was chilly and dusty, and my candle flared and made the shadows cower and quiver.
“‘Farthing House’ on the other hand concentrates more towards character detail. “She was younger than I expected, probably in her late forties”, when describing Janet Pearson and, “Her hair was long too, and as a pale as her face”, when describing the ghost of the young woman.The structure of the story is also different in some aspects.Susan Hill begins her description of ‘Farthing House’ on “the most beautiful day”. She gives vivid descriptions of the natural surroundings of wildlife, “kingfishers” and “hedgerows”. This creates an intense picture for the reader and allows oneself to imagine taking the same journey.
‘The Red Room’ creates a sense of fear straight from the start, whereas such feelings are slower to develop in ‘Farthing House’. The Red Room is a formal, classic ghost story, whereas ‘Farthing House’ holds more of a mystery. Overall, each author makes use of the setting of the story to create a sense of fear of mystery.Both stories similarly end in daylight. The narrator in “The Red Room” states, “I opened my eyes in daylight”, whereas Mrs Flower in ‘Farthing House’ says, “The fog had cleared and it was a pleasant winter’s day, intermittently sunny”.Ghost stories are often associated with dark and eerie atmospheres; therefore having a story end in daylight may symbolically signify an end to any ghostly encounters.
The language each storyteller uses to describe encounters with ghosts also differs.Susan Hill’s writing is more ordinary, colloquial, like conversation, whereas H.G. Wells is more formal in his approach and uses a more old-fashioned way of writing. This can be seen with an inverse on some words such as ‘eight-and-twenty’, meaning 28, and ‘said I’ (the first sentence).
At the end of each story the reader is left with a mixed range of feelingsThe ending of ‘Farthing House’ is far more effective then the ending of ‘The Red Room’ as it has a gradual relief of tension. ‘The Red Room continues its irregularity of tension up to the end with an anti-climax where tension is gradually built up and then dramatically let down. “It is not…there is no ghost there at all; but worse, far worse-” and then “The worst of all things that haunt poor mortal man.
..and that is, in all its nakedness-Fear!” He admits that there is no ghost in the room but it is he own fear of the unknown that is causing him to work himself up into frenzy. Because of this ‘The Red
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