How is Tension and Fear Created in "The Red Room" by H.G. Wells?

Essay by jemmison March 2007

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The Red Room is a short, gothic horror story written by H.G. Wells. When the story was written in 1896, many people enjoyed reading novels that contained themes of death and decay. The Red Room contains many typical conventions of a gothic story: dark rooms and passages, characters who are old and showing signs of decay and it's castle setting is also a common appearance. These features contribute to the tense atmosphere and help create fear in the mind of the reader.

Starting the story midway through a conversation immediately sparks interest, making the reader want to read on to found out what is happening. The word ghost is used twice in the first six lines to suggest what the story may be about. The setting of Lorraine Castle has many gothic features which are mentioned in the story. When a door is opened towards the start of the story it "creak..."s

"on it's hinges" suggesting that it is old and in need of repair, therefore showing that even the castle itself is decaying. When the narrator walks into "the chilly, echoing passage" the reader gets the idea that the narrator is alone and cold, contrasting the three old people who are "all close together" and warm next to the fire. The author uses words such as "draughty", "chilly" and "dusty" to describe the "passage" and "spiral staircase" forming a picture of gloom in the reader's mind. "Everything in the house "was in it's place" which means the house was left in a hurry, leaving the reader to speculate why. When the narrator enters the red room everything appears to be "big" and "wide". This gives the room a very dominating presence, given emphasis earlier on by the description of the shadows as being "vivid". They are strong and...