The Sense of Mystery and Fear in Herbert George Wells' ‘The Red Room’

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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 ... ... middle of paper ... ...nters the ‘Red Room’ as the reader witnesses his previous attitude diminish when he asks 'What's up?' in hysterical panic. By the end of the story, his character has changed considerably, and he seems much wiser than ever before, perhaps because of his time spent in the ‘Red Room’. Wells allows the reader to observe this change of character and it makes the story feel more personal. The narrator now speaks of 'fear' as a real entity, rather than denying he could be affected by this ‘fear’ as before. In its context, 'The Red Room' is a ghost story reminiscent of Gothic novels; in which the author has effectively used tension and suspense to sustain an audience. I think that in the time it was written, it would have been seen by Victorians as an entertaining short story that was much in line with many other Victorian ghost stories of the time.
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