Analyse the short story 'The Red Room' by H.G. Wells. How is suspense created and maintained?

Essay by smita285High School, 10th gradeB-, December 2002

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'The Red Room' by H.G. Wells is a pre twentieth short story, successfully exploring the trepidation of a gothic surrounding. Pre- twentieth century gothic mysteries include an old, derelict house, old mysterious people, abnormal events and the sense of an unwanted spirit. These features contribute to establishing a feeling of unease and insecurity to the reader. They encourage the reader to have preconceptions that help them engage into the story further. Throughout the story, there is a slow but steady increase in tension and an overwhelming sense of fearful expectations.

The story begins by portraying a conversation between the four main characters: the narrator and the three old people. They do not pay much attention to the narrator or even each other. 'The old lady sat staring hard into the fire, her pale eyes wide open.' This conveys a sense of fearful apprehension in the narrator, and subsequently, the reader.

Repetition is an effective method used to build up the tension. 'This night of all nights.' 'It's your own choosing.' These are ominous phrases and aim to give the reader false expectations. The reader as well as the narrator is unnerved as they wonder what is so significant about this night.

The appearance of the old people evokes something out of the ordinary. 'The second man entered, more bent, more wrinkled, more aged even than the first.' The grotesque, distorted caricatures add to the sense of foreboding. They represent something sinister and menacing. The narrator's journey to the room creates further suspense. He evaluates his conversation with the old people. 'Who seemed to belong to another age... when omens and witches were credible, and ghosts beyond denying.' Originally the narrator was in a logical and rational state of mind, but now, following the conversation with the three old...