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How do H.G. Wells and Susan Hill create tension in their stories ‘The Red Room’ and ‘Farthing House’?

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Introduction

How do H.G. Wells and Susan Hill create tension in their stories `The Red Room' and `Farthing House'? `The Red Room' by HG Wells and `Farthing House' by Susan Hill are two ghost stories exploiting the cultural, social and historical aspects of the gothic ghost story genre. Cleverly, both writers create tension, to generate a sense of thrill and frission that engages the reader emotionally. Coleridge called this the `willing suspension of our disbelief' in that the reader's scepticism is set aside and we allow the fictional ghost and its presence to entertain us. Though `The Red Room' was written one hundred years before `Farthing House' it feels more modern with its psychological emphasis whereas `Farthing House' is more subtle in the way in which tension is created. Both of the tales are classic examples of gothic stories that have two very different outcomes of the ghost story genre. They are both written in the first person narrative; `The Red Room' emphasises on the psychological aspects of the narrator. Whereas `Farthing House' experiments on the mental views of the narrator. As she in `Farthing House' sounds confessional and scared of an experience that she had suffered from before the story was wrote. The first person narrative adds immediacy to the events as quickly as they unfold. The intentional uncertainness and ambiguity of the narrator's visit to the red room of Lorraine Castle is suggested in the assertion that there is `black fear' in all of us. These ideas play with the readers' preconceptions and their enjoyment of the story. Victorian ghost stories emphasised the fear of a ghost whereas modern ghost stories looks more within the mind and the how there is fear in us all, whether it be darkness or the vision of a ghost. But there is one main aim of all ghost stories, whether they are from the eighteenth century or the present day, their intention is to entertain! ...read more.

Middle

The creepiness of the gravestone shows the contrast between the village, which was so ordinary and Aunt Addy's strange nursing home. The setting of `Farthing House', an old Victorian house that seems to be set outside the village beyond the fog, where nobody seems to travel. These are the subtle stereotypical elements the story contains. The thrill and frission that the setting shows is very effective by the use of first person descriptive language. The house is never really described too much just the links between the antiseptic smell and the burning leaves. The house is of a Victorian variety as it is described in little detail but does have a history that becomes apparent toward the end of the story, when the narrator visits the graveyard. This is where she is told that before, it was a retirement home, and the sighting of the ghost becomes clear. There is more emphasis on Cedar Room, which is in `Farthing House'. The narrator describes the room whilst entering it: `I was in this large, high ceilinged room because it was free, its previous occupant having recently died'. As in `The Red Room' both of the narrators are staying inside a room where someone had died and the only difference is that in Lorraine castle a duke had died there hundreds of years before and the occupant of Cedar Room had only recently died. The little church, cottages and graveyard add a `spooky' effect to the story as the graveyard appears to be overgrown and the church's `uncut morquette'. At this point of the story where the story is coming to its closing stages the answers to the questions raised previously in the story are explained and Susan Hill does this through the description of the setting which helps the reader to understand and feel the narrators' anxiety. The description of the setting creates atmosphere and tension in both the stories. ...read more.

Conclusion

Without this description the atmosphere would not be created. The darkness of the room gives off an overwhelming sensation of black fear. Fear of the dark and paranoia, which the narrator found out the hard way, so much that he hit his head and caused a gash. Susan Hill gives a physical explanation of a ghost and the narrator visualises it and that is a more expected view from a Victorian gothic tale. The answer in which the narrator gives to the keepers of the castle is unexpected. There could have been a ghost but the narrator sounds very reassured that it was all in the mind. Ghost stories' main aim is to scare the reader or to raise their emotions causing them to have a little fear and enjoyment. This, I feel was done very well by HG Wells and Susan Hill, but they did a lot to make both the stories as enjoyable as they were. The use of many different elements helps to construct a gothic tale, the setting, characterisation, language and atmosphere. Here I think there is no major part which makes ghost stories what they are, ghost stories would be nothing if they missed one of these elements, and as `The Red Room' showed there doesn't have to be a ghost for you to enjoy the tale. However, I do feel that in these two particular stories that they would have still been good, but not as excellent if they didn't contain the first person narrative, this helps the reader to establish the events more quickly and more emotions are fed through the narrator than it would if it was written as a third person. This is what I agree with and I feel it fits in with both stories and is directed at the reader. Dr Johnson in 1979 said `The question simply is, whether departed spirits ever have the power of making themselves perceptible to us; a man who has seen an apparition can only be convinced himself'. ...read more.

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