The opening paragraph tells us exactly what the story has in store for us “I can assure you” – This is the opening line! Already H. G Wells has our attention and it inspires the reader to read more so that they can find out why this person is so confident. “It will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me. ” And in an instant we know what’s going on in the story. “I stood before the fire” fire is a hell association, leading us into the illusion of evil once more. Fire and hell also give indications of the devil. ‘Its your own choosing’ said the man with the withered arm. ”
Disconnecting himself from whatever choice the man might make, also ‘withered’ noting the abnormalities that this man clearly has, giving the impression of him being slightly different. Withering is often something that comes with age. As the story develops more, you get more and more clues that this is an evil story “The old woman sat staring into the fire, her pale eye’s wide open. ” Pale eye’s are highly uncommon; this is usually an effect of being in the dark for a long amount of time. “Ah. She broke in ‘ eight and twenty years you have lived and never seen the likes of this house I reckon” so now we are informed that there is a difference to this house, “she swayed her head slowly rock side to side” swaying is almost a hypnotic movement.
“A many a thing to see and sorrow for” implying that he may regret seeing them. “I half expected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house. ” It’s true that if somebody openly doubts beliefs you can start to doubt them also. So by them consistantly doubting him they are unconciously placing seeds of doubt in his mind. I put down my empty glass on the table” there is a saying involving a half empty glass, if you see the glass as half full you are optimistic, if you see it half empty you are pessimistic, so maybe this is a subtle hint that he is rather pessimistic. “If I see anything tonight I will be so much the wiser.
For I come to the business with an open mind. ” Even though he has not and is clearly set in his way to dismiss any thought of a ghost from his mind.. “Its your own choosing” repetative, possibly used to emphasise that the ‘man with the withered arm’ wants nothing to do with his decision. I heard the sound of a stick, and a shambling step on the flags in the passage outside” what could possibly make that sound? But before you can guess you are told. It is a man. But whereas in most cases that would be a relief its not, the man is being described as anything but normal “more bent, more wrinkled, more aged than the first” more is repeated three times, three is a mystical number often associated with witchcraft also there are three old distorted people in the room, this may suggest that there is something mystical about these ‘people’.
His eye’s were covered” Sometimes its reasuring have eye contact with somebody but due to the fact his eye’s are covered this cannot happen. “His lower lip half averted, hung pale and pink from his decaying yellow teeth” this gives us an even more horiffic view of the man, ‘decaying’ is a word and effect that comes with age. After he enters he sits down clumsily in a chair and it is made clear to us that the other old man does not like him “a short glance of positive dislike” this is how the interaction is described, but if they don’t like each other then why are they both here?
Huddling around the fire? “I said – it is your own choosing” the line is repeated for the third time, and this is also the third thing that H. G Wells has emphasised with the number three. “It’s my own choosing’ I said” finally he answers the old man. “Then he began to cough and splutter again” symbolising him being unhealthy and ill. “A monsterous shadow of him crouched upon the wall and mocked his action as he poured and drank” the author is using personification to possibly make you feel that the shadows are alive and they’re not nice.
The three of them made me feel uncomfortable; their evident unfriendliness to me and to one another. ” They’re obviously unhappy with him being there, but why? Also this is the second occasion we have been informed that they dislike each other. “If’ I said ‘you will show me to this room of yours, I will make myself comfortable there” he uses ‘yours’ completely detaching himself from the room, “I will make myself comfortable there” making it evidently clear that he is not comfortable with ‘them’.
He gets a response from the oldest man who looks at him with his ‘red eyes’ this gives us almost a devilish impression. After this he repeats himself a little more determined and the man ‘with the withered arm’ reluctantly gives him directions “But if you go to the red room tonight-” he was cut off by the old woman who is taking to nobody in particular “This night of all nights” so what is this night? Why is it so special? “You go alone,” said the man ‘with the withered arm’ finishing off his previous sentence. Very Well’ I answered ‘and which way do I go” oozing confidence even after everything he has been told.
As the man gives him very specific directions the realisation hits you that this is indeed a castle, not a house. Also that the ‘red room’ is situated a long way from and human contact “Are you really going? ” the older man with the shade is asking him “looking at me for the third time with that queer unnatural tilting of the head” everything in this place appears to be unnatural. The realisation that he is actually going starting to sink in to the old people.
This night of all nights” is repeated again, creating the odd sense of mystery and wonder. “It is what I came for” once again very confident in what he is about to do. As the man moves towards the door H. G Wells describes the man with the shade, moving closer to the others. Maybe there is something horrifying in this house if three people who seemingly hate each other are cowering together in front of a fire. “I left the door open until the candle was well alight and then I shut them in. ” implying that he is the one in charge.
The fact that he shuts them in leads us to believe that he want to be away from them. “I walked down the chilly echoey passage” The passage is cold and echoey so there must be a draft coming from somewhere. On the way to the red room the man enter a corridor, “The effect was scarcely what I expected, for the moonlight, coming in by the great window on the grand staircase, picked out everything in vivid black shadow or silvery illumination. ” This is very odd, because everything else is described as dark and black, but this is described as silvery and light, this helps create an unnatural feel yet again.
When he moves towards the door he comes across what looks like a figure in front of him only to find it was an ornament on a buhl table this gives us the indication that despite the fact he is trying to pretend he is unmoved by all that has been implyed, he truly is slightly afraid. Then as he approaches the door to the red room, the tension builds, and he enters very quickly closing the door behind him. He finds himself in a huge room. As he continues to arrange the room, the tension is allowed to fall giving the reader a certain release. As he becomes more aware of the shadows in the room the tension rises again.
The next thing we are informed of is that somebody has indeed died or “started dying” in this very room. He inspects the room thoroughly and creates a form of barricade in front of the fire, implying that he is planning to fight whatever may disturb him tonight. “The shadow in the alcove at the end in particular had that undefinable quality of a presence, that odd suggestion of a lurking, living thing, that comes so easily in silence and solitude. ” Again, this shows us how darkness is far more frightening than being able to see and knowing what is there. Tension is built by how the he expresses his feelings.
To conquer his fear of the unknown the man places a candle in an alcove in the corner of the room. “At last, to reassure myself, I walked with a candle into it, and satisfied myself that there was nothing tangible there. I stood that candle upon the floor of the alcove, and left it in that position. ” This brings us back to the opening line about him having to have a very ‘tangilble’ ghost to frighten him. Tension mounts as he trys talking to himself maybe to give himself an illusion that he is not alone, but he thinks better of it after listening to the eerie echoes that his own voice casts, and in turn frightening himself more than before.
The tension is increasing now all the time. He is getting more nervous and he feels the need for more candles. He has to get some from the corridor and he lights them and places them around the room. His spirits lift but there is also tension created through his black humour. He may be watching what he describes as “cheery and reassuring little streaming flames,” but he is getting nervous and he jokes about how he should warn any ghost about tripping over a candle on the floor. Then it happens.
The first candle goes out, casting a black shadow on the wall, he trys desperately to convince himself that something very ‘normal’ has happened to put it out. The second candle goes out and the tension in the story is boosted as there is uncertainty about why the candle went out. Although the man does not feel any draft, he claims that it was a draft that blew it out. He tries to reassure himself by lying to himself although he has a deeper feeling that he may not be alone. He has to dismiss this from his mind otherwise he would become the victim of his own fears.
As he goes over to re-light the candle, it goes out, then another and another. Then one is extinguished in front of him while he is looking at it. “The Shadows seemed to take another step towards me”. The light symbolizes the truth and good. Without light, there is no truth or good. If the light goes out he has no way of finding out what is in the red room and also without the symbolised ‘good’ to protect him he has no way of defending himself against the darkness. The darkness creates the tension and fear. In light, we can see but when it is dark we cannot see and because of this tension and fear is everywhere.
When lies and evil is closing in on him and as it does, he is being drawn away from the truth and the good, leaving him alone with the evil and lies. In the ‘Red Room’, the man has a revolver. This symbolizes violence, which leads to war, and war implies conflict which builds tension. Fire symbolizes warmth and wards off evil also hell which is the place where all evil is born. Panic comes as the room plunges into shadows and darkness with him racing around trying to keep up with the candles as they go out.
Approaching the climax of the stressful night time section of the story, the tension is further emphasised, as the sentences become shorter. Clumsily he knocks his thigh against the table. His downfall begins. From here on he loses control. It is as if he is in sinking sand and the rope stopping him from sinking completely snaps. He loses his quest for the truth as he tries to light the fire with the last candle. Seemingly something or someone knocks him out, you don’t actually find out what happened that night and you are left to ponder it all by yourself.
There is a space in time, and the tension collapses when we realise it’s daytime and somehow that brings a familiar safety. We are informed that he was found at dawn, with blood on his lips, and the old people bandaged his head. The old people who once seemed evil and distorted now appear normal once more, the light brings truth and this is how these people truly are, there abnormalities sinking away as the light shines onto them. The ending of the story is rather open to imagination, nothing is truly resolved and we don’t actually know what happened into the room, H. G Wells decided to let us use our imagination seemingly.