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Comparative Study of 'The Red Room' by HG Wells and 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens.

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Comparative Study In 'The Red Room' by HG Wells and 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens, fear and suspense are built up by the description of the characters, the atmosphere and settings, the structure of the stories, the historical and cultural context and the over confidence of the characters who seem to learn a lesson in the story. The characters themselves add a lot to the fear and suspense. The manner of their description, their appearance and behaviour and the way the narrator thinks about them, all play a very important role in enhancing fear and suspense in the story. In "The Red Room" other than the narrator there are three 'grotesque custodians.' The narrator feels they are 'inhuman in senility, 'atavistic' and they seem to be growing insane day by day. Their silences are described as being 'gaunt' and when they do speak, they just keep 'droning' on and on. One old man has 'a withered arm' and keeps on repeating the same words- 'It's your own choosing', increasing the nervousness and fear of the narrator and the tension felt by the readers in the story. The old woman just stands there 'staring hard into the fire', 'her pale eyes wide open.' The oldest man is described as being the most grotesque and unhealthiest of all. 'His lower lip, half averted, hung pale' exposing his 'decaying old teeth.' ...read more.


The settings in both stories are very spooky and bone chilling, so also adds to the fear and suspense. They set the atmosphere because the entire story takes place there. In "The Red Room" the entire story takes place in Lorraine Castle. The name of the room itself is very eerie because it reminds you of blood, which is red and quite disturbing. The entire castle is adorned with 'deep-toned, old fashioned furniture', which makes the narrator feel he has entered into another world. At that time there was no electricity for light bulbs so only candles could be used. The usage of candles in a story is a very effective way of bringing out fear and suspense because if the candles suddenly go out, it leaves the narrator alone in the dark, which is a very unnerving situation, especially if the room is said to be haunted. In the story, many people have died in the Red Room before the narrator arrived. There were stories of a duke who began dying in the Red Room and finally fell off the stairs at the entrance of the room. There were also many older stories of a 'timid wife and the tragic end that came to her husbands jest of frightening her.' These stories are the basis from which the rumours of the Red Room being haunted by a ghost came from. "The Signalman" is set in a very deep and steep valley. ...read more.


As the stories go on, Dickens and Wells add a few hints that tell the reader that the narrator's overconfidence is ebbing away and turning into fear. The narrators, who had started off so confidently, start feeling very nervous. In "The Red Room" the narrator took a table and 'on this lay my revolver to hand.' Questions start entering the minds of the readers as to why somebody who did not believe in ghosts was keeping a revolver ready to hand to protect himself and if he really is as brave and fearless as he had described himself to be? Suspense then increases, as the readers want to know whether he would require the aid of the revolver, so they read on to find out. By the end of the story, the narrators are confused as to whether ghosts and the supernatural really do exist because of the doubts put into their minds due to the unusual events that happen in the story. In "The Red Room", at the end of the story, the narrator confides to the custodians that there is something haunting the room and says that the room is haunted by 'fear!' that will 'not bear with any reason.' This tells the readers that the narrator now acknowledges the existence of the supernatural, opposed to what he had felt like when he had first entered the castle. Not everything can be explained by science and there are some things that still remain unknown. Aditya Kaul 10 A Page 1 4/28/2007 ...read more.

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