Wells was a writer with several identities. Most of Wells’ short stories were written about the marvels of science, but the genre of this one, is based on a gothic mystery. A gothic story is a romantic fiction with its setting usually in a ruined gothic castle or abbey. It emphasised mystery and horror and was filled with ghost haunted rooms, underground passages, and secret stairways. The scene in the red room is set in an old, derelict castle – Lorraine Castle in which a young duke had died.This very setting suggests a mystery and immediately contributes to suspense in the story.
The tension is also created by the old woman when she states `and eight-and-twenty years you have lived and never seen the likes of this house. ‘ The mounting tension begins with the journey towards the red room. There is a passage, a spiral staircase and a very long corridor. The passage is described, by the anonymous narrator as a chilling, echoing passage. ‘ Again as the tension is built up, he refers to the passage, as `the long, draughty subterranean passage was chilly and dusty.
The tension is once again created by the sounds on the spiral staircase `the choes rang up and down the spiral staircase’ The `subterranean’ too, suggests darkness, an enclosure, a tomb, ominous and frightening. On entering the dreaded haunted room, the narrator is faced with a surprise: `for the moonlight coming in by the great window on the grand staircase picked out everything in vivid black shadow or...
silvery illumination. ‘ The use of light and dark, traditional symbols of good and evil engage the reader by suggesting a supernatural presence in the red room.The structure of the story also creates and sustains suspense. In the pening of the story, the characters are vividly described; The old woman for example who sat staring with her pale eyes wide open, the man with the withered arm, and the old man walking with a crutch and decaying teeth. One can see the narrator is not at ease, he calls them, `old pensioners’ and `grotesque custodians’.
He is made to feel uncomfortable – `The three of them made me feel uncomfortable, with their gaunt silences, their bent carriage, their evident unfriendliness to me and to one another.The story is also told in first person, an anonymous narrator. The effect on the reader is that e is alone, no one to turn to and now; from being confident his whole demeanour deteriorates and becomes a very lonely person. When the haunted room is mentioned, it engages an interest in the narrator, however his confidence introduces conflict in the room.
The story is structured so that there is alternating tension and cheeriness of the narrator in the red room. He tries to dispel his anxiety by reciting some rhymes, by singing, and by speaking to himself, trying to convince himself there were no ghosts`.I began to string some rhymes together. ‘ This puts the reader at ease, yet at the same time the eader knows that tension is being created. On entry to the red room,
he checks the room thoroughly and locks the door `..
. satisfying myself of the fastening of the door. ‘ The tension is built up to where he lights the candles. It is here that panic sets in, when the narrator reacts badly to the candles being extinguished. Again, there is the use of light and dark.
He is wary of the darkness, afraid and alone in a room, which was known to many as being haunted. His insecurity when the candles go out is very evident `.I did not see the candle go out. …
turned and saw the darkness was there. ‘ In ontrast with the darkness the story ends in daylight-normality, away from the deep, dark, chilly passageways and the power of darkness in the room. Yet the narrator still feels the fear and although the images of sunshine console him, the fear still presses against him. The atmosphere created by H. G.
Wells is that of oppression and neglect. The author’s choice of language creates the atmosphere of suspense. In the description of the people: `withered arm’, the `pale eyes’, and `monstrous shadow’.The description of the house adds to the creating of atmosphere `the queer old mirror’ and `the door creaked’. The repetitive uses of certain sentences `this night of all nights. ‘ enhance this atmosphere and sustain the suspense.
Also the repeated reference to the old peoples’ fear, darkness and shadows is a subtle way by the author to maintain a certain tension in the story. The depth of the novel ultimately surfaces with H. G. Wells’ use of imagery. The use of similes, metaphors and personification of darkness, light and fear all add doubt, mystery and suspense to the short story. The `little tongue of light’ is one such example.
He describes the darkness, and the effect it has on the narrator as ….
closed upon me like the shutting of an eye. ‘ And `…
sealed my vision. ‘ He is using sight as a major sensory object when it comes to darkness and fear. In order to preserve and sustain suspense and tension in the red room, H. G. Wells has used a variety of ways of maintaining this throughout the story.
The type of genre, the structure of the story, its opening and ending. The setting which created the atmosphere of oppression and neglect, his choice of language and use of imagery. All these factors contributed to the creation of tension and suspense in the red room.
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