I am comparing and contrasting two short stories from before 1900 and after 1900 and how each story is written to create an atmosphere and how the authors have presented their stories.
‘I can assure you, said I, that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me.’ This is the opening line to the story ‘ Red Room’; the opening line tells the reader a lot about the storey before setting the scene. To the reader the person comes across to be a brave person with a sarcastic and boastful manner. ‘ I have never told anyone this before.’ This is the opening line too the storey ‘Farthing House’. The line indicates that the person speaking is shy and had been reluctant to tell anyone of her story. This adds to the effect of mystery.
The suspense in both stories is built up using different techniques. The suspense in Red Room begins to mount as the man is making his way down the corridor to his cursed room of mystery. As the man becomes more suspicious and scared it makes the reader feel the tension. ‘ A bronze group stood upon the landing, hidden from me by the corner of the wall, but its shadow fell with marvellous distinctness upon the white panelling and gave me the impression of someone crouching to waylay me.’ The suspense in Farthing House is never as powerful as in Red Room. ‘It was not until I closed the door of my room and was alone that I was forced to acknowledge again what had been in the back of my mind all the time.’ The suspense makes the reader feel uncertain and unsure about what may happen next, that is why the story contains tension and suspense throughout.
The stories portray the characters as opposites. In Red Room the man comes across as, brave yet big headed and boastful, however, towards the end of the story the man is confronted by a ghost and he becomes scared. The man seems to have a nervous break down and is extremely apologetic to the other people who advised him, the ghost makes him become his opposite, and changes his thoughts and beliefs. The woman in Farthing House is quiet and shy because she is telling a storey about her own experience. The woman appears to be sceptical about whether she has actually seen the ghost and she tries to take her mind of it and tries to come up with other explanations instead of them being the actions of a ghost. When the woman is confronted with the ghost she does not hesitate and does not seem scared, ‘ I was desperate to follow her, because I felt she needed me in some way’
The reason for the different reactions of the characters is partly to do with the different appearances of the two ghosts. In Red Room the ghost is thought to be fierce and angry with the superstitious man who has contradictive thoughts. Because the man is scared and ‘ on edge’ it makes the reader believe that the ghost is dangerous and harmful. However due to the actions of the woman in Farthing House, the ghost comes across as timid and harmless. The appearance of the ghost does not seem so dramatic and drastic and the woman does not seem afraid by the ghost. The ghost’s appearance can be imagined by the reader through the reactions of the characters in the stories.
‘Red Room’ is a very stereotypical gothic ghost storey. It contains many definable characteristics, such as: ‘ the man with the withered arm’, ‘Lorraine Castle’, ‘a pair of sconce bearing candles’. These things are alien to a person living in a modern day world and such imagery as the castle appears in many other ghost stories. All the detail of the house is very gothic and slightly unreal. The gothic scenery and setting is very important, as it adds to the tension and detail of the storey and it is also a very useful way to build up to a moment of drama. In this story many of the events have a dramatic effect and some of the lines are very theatrical, ‘ With a cry of terror, I rushed to the alcove.’ The scenery and the dramatic emphasis on the words all work together to add to the effect of a classic pre 1900 gothic ghost story.
‘Farthing House’ is set in a modern day world. The setting is much less dramatic and does not play as larger part in the story as the scene in ‘Red Room’, however, the character in the story does describe her surroundings in detail but is not suspicious of anything about the place unlike the character in ‘Red Room’. The story is mainly revolved around the feelings of the character in the play;’ that feeling of unease and melancholy’, ‘I feel I have to tell the whole truth’, ‘I was very tired’.