There are many different ways in which HG Wells builds up tension and suspense in ‘The Red Room’. One way in which he does this is through the use of language. One of the main effective uses of language in ‘The Red Room’ is the use of personification; “made the shadows cower and quiver”. The shadow embeds fear into the reader, as they wonder if the shadow is alive, which creates tension as the reader wonders what will happen next.
Furthermore, the fact that the phrase makes it seem that the shadows are scared of something, and the reader would normally associate shadows with blackness and fear, makes the reader feel uneasy and heightens tension. It is almost as if fear is afraid of fear itself. The setting of the story also creates tension and suspense; “the great red room of Lorraine Castle, in which the young duke died”. The fact that it is set in a castle is not only typical of a gothic genre, but it builds suspense by saying; “in which the young duke died”. This makes the reader feel that death is imminent. It heightens tension as it makes the reader feel as if the narrator will die at the end of the story.
Dialogue is also used by the author to create tension. At first the narrator is sceptical and doubtful about the red room and its alleged supernatural powers; “I can assure you … that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me”. His arrogant behaviour creates uneasiness in the reader’s mind as it is typical in a Gothic story for the smug, non-believer to be the first victim of the story. However, as the story continues, we see that there is very little dialogue in the later parts of the story. Conversely, the fact that the story is written in the first person compensates for the lack of dialogue in the later parts of the story. We can also see that where there is dialogue, it is the narrator speaking to himself; “‘Steady on!’ I said. ‘These candles are wanted'”. This creates tension as it makes it seem as though the narrator is reassuring himself that nothing bad is going to happen to him.
Tension is also affected by sentence structure. H. G. Wells uses short sentences to build up pace when leading to a climax in the story; “I stood rigid for half a minute perhaps”. The fact that short sentences have been used, adds pace to the story which forces the reader to read on, creating tension. Furthermore, another way of creating tension is by using commas in long sentences; “The three of them made me feel uncomfortable, with their gaunt silences, their bent carriage, their evident unfriendliness to me and one another.”
Commas have been used to compel the reader along to the end of the sentence, thus generating tension. Moreover, in areas where the author wants to reduce tension, after a climax preparing them for another tension point, the author uses long, descriptive passages; “A bronze group stood upon the landing, hidden from me by the corner of the wall”. This descriptive passage is an effective way to relieve tension and prepare the reader for another climax point.
Another way in which the author creates tension and suspense is by withholding information. Immediately, we can see that the story begins mid-scene which creates suspense as it ambiguous and leaves the reader wanting to find out more; “I can assure you,”. We can also see this in the ending of the story. The ending of this story is an anticlimax as it does not provide all of the answers that are put in the readers mind throughout the story, which leaves the ending of the story open to speculation. Furthermore, the fact that we do not find out any of the names of the characters heightens tension from the start; “the old woman”, “the man with the shade”. This also creates suspense as ambiguity is created in the readers mind.
The author also creates suspense and tension through describing the characters negatively; “the man with the withered arm”. The negative description of characters creates ambiguity, causes the reader to speculate and generates a completely negative, hazy image in the readers mind. It is also is emotionally troublesome for the reader. This creates tension for the reader as the reader is left with an uncomfortable feeling.
Courtney from Study Moose
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