Tension and Atmosphere in "The Red Room" by H.G.Wells, "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens and "A Withered Arm" by Thomas Hardy
To investigate tension and atmosphere, I have looked at three pre1900
pieces- 'The Red Room' H.G.Wells, 'The Signalman,' Charles Dickens, &
'A Withered Arm' Thomas Hardy. They use a variety of different
techniques, each with their own individual style but achieving the
same overall effect. They focus on setting, description of characters
& use of language.
The Red Room is a tale of a man on a quest to discover the truth about
the legend of 'The Red Room' in Lorraine Castle, as the young man's
fate unfolds the audience are led with him, they feel his fear, hear
his thoughts and experience his terror. 'The Red Room' has such a
mystery behind it, fear itself nearly leads him to his death. A tale
that lacks warmth and everything about it instils terror.
The title of the story has a suggestive air, the word red makes the
audience think of blood, danger, and death, in 'The Signal Man,' red
is also the main focus colour for the same reasons but this time in
the form of the danger light in the mouth of the tunnel.
H.G. Wells writes in the first person so the audience can follow what
is happening and believe they are there, 'I have lived' The opening
line sets the tone of the story, and the audience is filled with
anticipation. The narrator is very confident, which is displayed
almost immediately 'I can assure you, it will take a very tangible
ghost to frighten me.' The audience is then effectively led into an
early assumption that the narrator will be proved wrong, that there
will be a ghost, and it will, most certainly frighten him.
The setting is described in clues hidden throughout the text,
therefore the picture is built up slowly for example, there is a
fireplace by which they are all gathered 'As I stood up by the fireâ€¦ a
shambling step on the flags door creaked' I know as I read this
story, before I was told, I imagined a large old castle with cold
floors and the only source of heat being an old wood fire. Therefore
remembering other stories, I recognise this as a typical stereotype
for a ghost story, the castle is easy to imagine, therefore the
atmosphere surrounding the building becomes heightened.
Loraine castle was abandoned by its possessor and has a previous
reputation for haunting's leading to deaths. Therefore it becomes
wired almost electric (even though the castle has none!) Without
electricity the only source of light is candles (which are easily
snuffed and are not as reliable as electric lights). The tale is set
at near-midnight, there is a full moon (again very stereotypical) and
it is the anniversary of a death related to 'The Red Room'.
At the beginning of the story H.G. Wells uses long paced sentences,
without urgency or panic as does the 'Withered Arm'. All three stories
are highly descriptive, lots of shadows, dark corners, and dim light