These short stories that I am writing about are called gothic mysteries. This is a type of gothic fiction that existed around the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century. Gothic mysteries usually have unusual settings, for example an isolated castle, near the railway etc. Gothic mysteries type stories would have emphasised mystery and horror. Most gothic stories have certain features such as darkness, suspense and the use of colour red.
The atmosphere and themes of gothic fiction stories is usually awkward, tense and the writer usually uses omniscient narrator to keep the tension and suspense going throughout the story. The stories that I am going to analyse in this essay are The Red Room – H. G. Wells; The Cone – H. G. Wells and The Signalman – Charles Dickens. The Red Room is about a young man who goes in a castle that is supposed to be haunted. He meets three old, weird people and goes into the search of the Red Room. In the room he finds more then he can handle.
The Cone is about two men, Raut and Horrocks, who walk around Horrock’s iron factory with the question of what Horrock’s knows over their heads. The Signalman is about a man that works near the railways who sees a ghost. The story revolves around the question whether the ghost is real or is the signalman crazy. In the red room the three old people are described in a sickening way, “decaying yellow teeth”, that immediately creates some sort of tension because we wonder why they are like his and does it have something to do with the red room.
There is some sort of an atmosphere between the three old people because at the beginning of the story the three old people are described as being distant, “their evident unfriendliness”, but before the narrator goes of into the search of the red room the three old people are brought together, “all close together”. Now we don’t know why they are brought together we do start to draw our own conclusions that perhaps the narrator might be in some sort of danger and fear brings then together.
There are also the warning signs that make some tension, for example the old woman keeps on repeating “this night of all nights” this creates tension because we don’t know what is so special about this night. And also the old man keeps on repeating “it’s your own choosing” from this we want to know what is so special about this room, this makes tension, because we want to know something that the author isn’t telling us jet. In the cone there is some tension created immediately from the start of the story. The story begins with two people talking about a subject unknown to us.
The atmosphere and the environment around the couple create tension because it is described as being “hot and overcast” and “stiff and dark”. We see that there is some tension between the two characters as the women is described as being “irritated” and the man being “nervous” and also the man talks in an unsteady voice, “his voice was unsteady”. From this we get that something is going on otherwise they wouldn’t be nervous as they are. But when the third character walks in he creates also more tension. He is described as being “a great shadowy figure” and “sultry gloom of his eye”.
There is also a question we pick up from the omniscient narrator, “What does Horrocks know, that creates the most tension overall, and this question keeps creating tension until the very end of the story. In the signalman there is an ominous atmosphere from the very beginning of the story as the location is described “deep trench” and “angry sunset”. From the start of the story we realise that there seems to be a great distance between the two characters because as the story starts the narrator shouts “helloa” the signalman doesn’t look towards him he immediately looks “down the line”.
This creates a bit of tension as to why he is looking in the opposite direction when someone is calling him. There is also something about the signalman’s speech. He appears hesitant in speaking to the narrator, “singular air of reluctance” and “daunted me”. We don’t know exactly what the problem is until we get further into the story and embark on the spectre bit of the story. The way that the narrating of the story keeps the tension going is after the three old people have said the they believe that the house is haunted the writer doesn’t give us the answer straight away he keeps us guessing until the very end.
The description of the narrator’s journey to the red room also extends the tension as the walk to the room take a whole page in the book. The way this makes tension is it keeps the question on our mind of whether the house is haunted and describes the location in great detail, long dark passages, the shadows and the sound add to the suspense and the tension. Once the narrator enters the room even more tension is created from his need for security when he grabs his revolver, because if he is scared this means that there is something to be afraid of, but what?
The candles and the fire make red room a real gothic story as these are the general feature of a gothic story and it also makes this little more suspense are we now have a bright room but now we are waiting for something to happen. Once the candles start to be, what looks like to be, extinguished we realise that the mood is about to change to even more tension and suspense, because the candles aren’t being blown away the look to be extinguished but by whom, and how are they managing to do it so fast. And at the very end of the story we are left with lots of unanswered question.
We heard, or read, about some rumours about some woman and a great sin, and we aren’t provided with a full explanation of what exactly happened in “the red room”. The narrating in the cone keeps suspense high and tension through the roof. The story uses omniscient narrator, this is when the narration is changed throughout the story so that we know what each character is thinking apart from one or two depending on the story. Also the omniscient narrator allows the author to control the amount of information we receive and from whom.
In the story the main tension is created by the atmosphere between Raut and Horrocks as we don’t know what Horrocks knows. In the story there are couple of danger points that increase the tension a bit, for example Horrock gripping Raut, the railway crossing, the canal, also the use of colour red by the canal give us another danger point, and finally the railing above the furnace. Through all these points we are waiting for something to happen, we are waiting to find out what Horrocks knows. In the signalman the changing if the signalman’s reaction cause confusion and increase tension.
When the signalman hears the bell and leaves to see if the train is coming raises tension because the narrator is in the same room and he doesn’t hear the bell so we are now wondering whether the signalman is crazy. The points were more tension is build up is the revelation of the signalman’s story. Also another technique that increases the tension is when we are made to guess what happens and one point where we do just that is when the signalman says he feels he can do nothing but wait. Also the fact that the narrator is also the observer who is unsure whether to fully believe the signalman adds to the suspense.
The languages in the three stories are fairly different. The two stories by H. G. Wells have about the same language techniques but the Charles Dickens is very different as he uses different features to write a story. For example Wells likes to use the colour red to him this symbolises danger, blood and warnings, “the blood-red reflections of the furnaces” from this we get that Wells likes to use metaphors, where as Dickens likes to concentrate more on the description to the surroundings and character description, “the wet stains stealing down the walls”.
The ending of red room isn’t as creative as the story it self. At the end we find out that the room is haunted by fear and that’s it, it isn’t elaborated on its just left like that. A woman and a great sin are mentioned, but no questions are answered full and the story doesn’t have and ending hat finishes it off. In the cone the omniscient narrator finally catches up with Horrocks when he kills Raut. We find out that he is remorseful and regrets killing Rout. We also find out what Horrocks knew. This story unlike the red room is finished off.
In the signalman at the end the signalman kills himself, and we find out that the ghost was warning him. So it does answer couple of our questions. Since this essay is about gothic fiction/mystery in my opinion the best story is the red room as it leave a lot of the questions to our imagination and lets us draw our own conclusions. Again the similarities remain between the cone and red room as they are written by the same author and the biggest differences are between the signalman and the red room as they are two opposite styles of writing although the story line isn’t all that different.