The Sense Of Mystery And Fear In Herbert George Wells' ‘The Red Room’

1277 words - 5 pages

In 1896 Herbert George Wells wrote ‘The Red Room’ and using a heavy Gothic theme, which is popular for ninetieth century stories, he invites the reader to become engaged with the mystifying events that he creates. Wells captures and sustains the reader’s imagination using suspense, setting, gothic convention and language techniques which allow for a remarkably eerie tale to be told. The significance of the title immediately creates a sense of mystery, as the reader does not know why the adjective ‘red’ is used to describe the room and this colour is usually associated with danger, blood, hell and fear, suggesting that Wells is preparing the reader for anguish. Also using alliteration in the title enhances and puts emphasis on the ‘Red Room’, as no other colour would create the same effect which captures the reader’s imagination. This links directly to the Gothic genre, drawing attention to the allegedly haunted ‘Red Room’. Similarly in the first sentence attention is instantaneously grasped ‘It will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me’, making a ghost feel almost tangible to the reader as well as leaving them asking questions, especially as the story develops and centres around an unnamed protagonist. This is equally important because the ‘Red Room’ is written in first person, which makes the story more personal and makes the reader feel a direct connection with this unknown narrator. It seems only knowing one viewpoint restricts the reader's knowledge and therefore many key details are omitted resulting in an element of ambiguity.

Initially Wells raises the suspense level through introducing the reader to the personalities of the three ‘ancient’ and ‘grotesque custodians’. Their presence seems to add to the strangeness of the story and Wells perhaps reflects this in their characters. The man with the withered arm, the man with the shade and the old woman are all deliberately dehumanised by Wells because they are all nameless and the description ‘human qualities seem to drop from old people insensibly day by day’ summarises the narrators feelings towards them whilst creating an uncertain atmosphere for the reader and holding them in suspense. The man with the withered arm adds to intrigue with the repetition of the phrase 'It's your own choosing.' This implies that the custodians know something about the ‘Red Room’ that the narrator does not. This repetition is used by Wells to ensure that the point is emphasised. Equally Wells shows the old lady’s concern in brackets aside ‘This night of all nights’ which inserts more tension for the reader and makes it seem that there is something indefinite about this specific night. It is also important that it is set aside because it creates the feeling that she is particularly emotive towards the room and only really listens to the conversation when the ‘Red Room’ is mentioned. The old lady seems to be the most affected by the ‘Red Room’ as she speaks to the narrator and says there are ‘many...

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