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Examine the 19th Century stories The Red Room and The Signalman and consider how the writers create suspense.

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Introduction

Examine the 19th Century stories The Red Room and The Signalman and consider how the writers create suspense The 19th century horror stories, The Red Room by H. G. Wells and The Signalman by Charles Dickens, are both written in the traditional gothic horror setting with the almost predictable storylines. The Red Room by H. G. Wells is not an irregularity in the masses of 19th century horror tales but is slightly different as it tells of a visitor to long forgotten castle which is purportedly inhabited by a ghostly force in this one room. It is different to many others as it is just a ghostly force not a spectre. The Signalman however, is an account of one mans encounters with a railway signalman and the signalman's alleged encounters with auguring phantoms warning of the perils that lay ahead for the railway worker. The suspense in both is used to accentuate the series of events leading up to the conclusions of the stories. The gothic horror genre was, as aforementioned, widely used in novels which had predominated in the last two thirds of the 18th century and continued into the 19th. ...read more.

Middle

All of these characters seem to emphasise the scepticism of the narrators, yet in the end the narrators seem to wish they had listened to these, first described as practically deranged, wise guides. The location and atmosphere in The Signalman is set on the first page when the cutting in which the railway runs is described as being "unusually precipitous" and made from "clammy stone, that became oozier and wetter as he went down". We get the impression this that the cutting is a very ominous place to spend most, or even any, of your time. Only a few lines later, the reader who is still picturing the damp, depressing cutting has a further description. The narrating visitor presents it as "a crooked prolongation of this great dungeon" and "the shorter perspective in the other direction terminating in a gloomy red light, and the gloomier entrance to a black tunnel" We are left in no doubt as to the tone and feel of the area and as if to compound our ideas on the place loosely reminiscent of hell, "in whose massive architecture there was a barbarous, depressing and forbidding air". We might associate such a cheerless desolate place with a horror novel and to reinforce this stereotype Dickens' narrator describes it as "as solitary and dismal place as ever I saw". ...read more.

Conclusion

As the narrator learns more and more about the supposed spectre, the suspense grows and when he journeys to the red room we expect the worst. However, when he arrives Wells cleverly draws out the expectations by slowly letting the candles all go out. This actually builds up the suspense more and more until at the story's climax he just "remembers no more" instead of the anticipated ghost. This then makes the reader wonder what happened and the narrator duly explains it was, "The worst of all things that haunt poor mortal man, and that is in all its nakedness - Fear!" These two 19th century gothic horror stories both revolve around the appearance ghosts but the building of suspense is done in two very different ways. The Signalman uses visions and foreshadowing to lead the reader into the conclusion before surprising and releasing the tension in the signalman's death. The Red Room, however, builds up suspense by directing us to a meeting between the supernatural and the narrator, but then this never happens creating a definite anti-climax for the modern reader. The suspense is rebuilt by the slow extinguishing of the candles until it culminates with the passing out of the narrator. Both have unique ways of interesting the reader and fulfilling their purpose as a horror story and this is how they are so effective. ...read more.

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