English Mr. Willis
How does H.G.Wells develop atmosphere and suspense in the opening section of “The Red Room”?
H.G.Wells builds up suspense and tension by using a range of writing techniques such as personification, descriptive language and emphasis.
In the first paragraph, H.G.Wells shows that the protagonist/narrator is alone. This is shown by the use of “I” on the first line. This also shows that the extract is written in first person. This shows that the protagonist is alone and vulnerable. This gives the effect on the reader that he is in the room on his own and is open to an attack.
Wells uses repetition to emphasise words. The author repeats the word “vigil” on line 3 and 6. Also this is repeated at the start of paragraph 5. Vigil means to stay awake to watch or prey. Vigil can also mean the eve of a religious festival, this can be linked to the reason why the protagonist is doing what he is doing and H.G.Wells could have meant for this pun but could have been coincidental. I think he meant this pun so the readers could interpret it in many different ways.
H.G.Wells uses a variety of language and descriptive words to describe The Red Room. H.G.Wells describes the room with this sentence “large sombre room, with its shadowy window bays”. This helps the reader imagine the room in their own way. I believe this is the most powerful two words in the opening paragraph are “sombre” and “shadowy”. These two words have a big impact on the reader, they give the feeling of a dark gothic style room. “Sombre” means dark and gloomy, this gives the image to the reader that there either is shadows in the room or there is a faint light source. This will give the effect of darkness, people are not scared of darkness but that are frightened of what can be lurking in the dark. This is an example of generic horror.
One of the influential phrases that H.G.Wells uses in the first paragraph is “germinating darkness”. Germinate means to begin or cause to develop and grow. Darkness is not a living thing and therefore cannot grow, this is an example of personification. This gives the effect on the reader that the darkness is slowly creeping in on our protagonist and has become alive. This gives and eerie sense and creates atmosphere from the language being used by H.G.Wells.
The closing phrase of paragraph one is “island of light”. This is a metaphor and it is describing the candle he had lit, he is saying how it is not strong enough to reach the whole way across the room. This gives the effect on the reader of it only being a tiny bit of light and it being surrounded by darkness, that being the sea and the candle/light being the island. There are still some shadows not being covered by the vast amount of candles being lit. It is a surrounding darkness around the candle.
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On the first line of paragraph 2 H.G.Wells uses “systematic examination” to describe how the protagonist searches the room. This implies that the narrator had been and searched this room or a room like this before. This gives me the idea that the narrator is searching for something and I believe this is ghosts. He checks there are no secret passages so nothing can get in. Wells uses “fastening of the door” to show the feeling of our protagonist. This shows how the narrator is alone and vulnerable. This is because he needs reassurance that nobody can get in. this releases tension from the audience but is built back up again trough the though of the protagonist not being able to get out or anything that is in there is stuck in their.
On line 7 of paragraph 2 wells uses the phrase “dark oak” to describe the furnishings. This gives the room a dark, gothic feel to it and this is typical of generic gothic horror. This gives the effect on the reader that the room is very dark and this gives it and eerie sense. This then therefore makes the audience empathise with the protagonist and feels sympathy for him.
When the protagonist searches for a “secret opening” on line 8 of paragraph 2, this shows the feels vulnerable to anything and he wants to check every possibility. This gives the effect on the reader that the protagonist is very systematic and had a rational way of thinking.
From line 18 to 23 of paragraph 3 there is a sense of irrational thinking. This is when the narrator believes that something could be lurking in the “shadows” and is scared of going into the shadows as he does not know if anything is here,. He is then thinking that there is some sort of presence and this gives the effect on the reader that there is something there. He walks into the shadows with a candle to reassure himself and this then relives the reader and releases tension as there is nothing “tangible” there, meaning nothing that he could see or touch.
In paragraph 3 the protagonist starts to sing to himself. This indicates to the reader that out narrator is scared and wants to pass time and this emphasises the vulnerability the narrator has. The line is “I began to string some rhymes together”. This shows how the protagonist is scared and alone and this is very generic. This gives the effect on the reader that the narrator wants to hear the sound of his own voice for reassurance that everything is O.K.
The narrator then goes on to talk to himself, H.G.Wells states “I also abandoned, after a time, a conversation with myself upon the impossibility of ghosts and haunting”. This then gives the effect on the reader that the protagonist is going mad or he needs reassurance as he is petrified of what may happen or is going to happen.
The protagonist states “three old and distorted people”. This describes the people downstairs whose house this may be. This reflects this horrible, old, decrepid image of the people downstairs and is quite vivid. This is a good use of imagery as it pus a picture the readers mind and this is a good choice of language to get this image across.
The room is portrayed as being quite large with a lot of dark furniture and shadowy places. This is because in paragraph 3 H.G.Wells uses the phrase “even with seven candles the place was merely dim”. Seven candles would give off a lot of light if evenly spread out but if the room was bigger this would create even more shadows. This would then affect the protagonist therefore affecting the reader, this gives the effect of there being a lot of shadows and the room being eerie, this then creates a daunting atmosphere and creates suspense.
The last two lines of paragraph 3 the author creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. The author writes “fire-flickering kept the shadows and penumbra perpetually shifting and stirring”. This is a good use of alliteration and this is used to emphasise penumbra. Penumbra comes from Latin, peanes meaning almost, nearly and umbra meaning shadow. Penumbra gives the effect of a partial eclipse it is almost a complete shadow but it had a faint ray of light through it. This gives the room this half shadow half light eerie feel therefore making the audience think and creating and atmosphere and tension. This phrase is used to emphasise the shadows created. There H.G.Wells has used alliteration creating emphasis on this phrase and this implies to the reader that this needed to be emphasised as it is important therefore attracting there attention.
On the second line of paragraph 4 the author states the work “moonlight”. This creates atmosphere and suspense and builds it up therefore forcing the reader the read on as they want to know what is happening. This word describes the moon and how its reflection is casting a peculiar feeling upon this whole scene. This then helps create tension and suspense on the reader as it sets a scary gothic theme.
In line 8 and 9 of paragraph 4 the author states “I could warn him not to trip over them”. This is referring to the ghost and this gives us an insight into why the protagonist is there. This gives the affect on the reader that our narrator is in this room for a purpose, this purpose id trying to find the ghost or spirit of the duke that died here. This build up and creates an atmosphere and tension as this puts a picture into the reader’s mind of there being a presence in the room or a supernatural being. This then emphasises that tension and the author leave it with a loos end, a sort of cliff-hanger to make the reader read on.
H.G.Wells states the phrase “brightly illuminated”. Wells is talking about the room, this is a contrast as to how it was described earlier. This shows to the audience and gives them reassurance that the narrator is feeling better and is not so alone, the light is accompanying him. This also gives the reader reassurance and relieves tension, this is because the room goes from being dark, gloomy to being very bright and illuminated. H.G.Wells does this so that he can build the tension back up again. This keeps the reader engaged and the tension makes them read on.
One line 3 of paragraph 5 H.G.Wells uses personification to describe how the shadows moved. “The shadow sprang back to its place there”, this shows and describes the shadow in a human like form as a shadow in un-able to spring back. This helps build up and create and atmosphere as it puts a picture in the readers mind of the shadows moving, this is called imagery.
In line 5 and 6 of paragraph 5 the protagonist speaks for the firs time. He says “By Jove! /that draughts a strong one!” This is an impossible theory as everything is shut, there are no windows or doors open. This is therefore building up suspense as someone or something may be doing this. The direct speech is the narrator trying to reassure himself that it is a preposterous thought that something maybe stubbing the candles out, he is trying to keep his thoughts rational.
The protagonist starts to doubt his own thoughts and is making up irrational excuses for these strange occurrences. An example of this is when he states, “Did I do that myself in a flash of absent mindedness?” This shows the narrator before our eyes change from being a rational, “systematic” man to being a man who had doubt in his mind and who is questioning his own thoughts and what he is sure he saw and heard.
In the middle of paragraph 6 the candles are now being stubbed out, not blown out. This shows that there must be someone o something in the room and this therefore builds up tension as the man has checked every inch of the room so it therefore must be a presence. The phrase is “suddenly nipped between a finger and thumb”. This shows there was no mistaking it and they were definitely stubbed out not blown out. This gives the effect on the reader of a presence in the room and this therefore creates tension and makes the reader carry on reading.
In paragraph 7 line 11 four candles extinguished at one point. This is one of the main tension builders and this creates new ideas for the reader, this puts an image of four people or things being in the room at the same time. The quote to back this up is “there vanished four lights at once in different corner of the room”. This gives the effect on the audience and shows to them that there are four different invisible beings in this room. Therefore helping build up the tension and change the atmosphere and mindset of the readers.
In the last paragraph of “The Red Room” H.G.Wells portrays the protagonist to be in a sense of hysteria and is almost unconscious to what is happening in front of him. This is because the protagonist does not want too know what is happening and this builds tension for the reader because they want to know what is happening and it is leaving them in suspense of what is happening. This therefore creates an atmosphere as the reader wants to know what is happening and does not get to find out as the narrator does not know what is happening also.
The author puts a picture into the mind of the reader that the narrator is dead. This is because H.G.Wells says “a horrible sensation of falling that lasted an age,” this can be interpreted in many different ways. One of these ways is that the protagonist had fallen down the stairs and has been knocked out or had fallen to his death. This can be related back to old myth of the Duke dying to his death falling down the stairs. Also another point to back this up is that the narrator does not know whether it was him striking himself on the forehead or if it was somebody else. This then creates an atmosphere as there could be a person in the room or it could have been himself. This then makes the reader read on as H.G.Wells has built up tension and has created an atmosphere and the reader is eager to read on.
I believe that I have described and given enough evidence of H.G.Wells developing tension and building up and atmosphere in “The Red Room”.