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Ghost stories became extremely popular in the Victorian era. The reason for their overwhelming popularity was the fact that there were a lot of scientific discoveries being made at the time and it was a fictuous, supernatural element, which offered an escape from these serious life changing developments of the time. The Red Room was written in 1896, at the ed of the Victorian era, but is till a clear example of the genre.
For Wells to write such a story was an interesting choice as he was most famous for his science fiction writing such as ‘The Time Machine’ and ‘War of the Worlds’. Some of ghost stories main influences come from the Gothic traditions, with settings in large, old castles, gloomy settings and persecution. Although ‘A little place off the Edgware Road’ was written in 1947 it clearly shows that it is rooted in its genre.
Greene qouted ‘Bishop Blougrams Apology’, saying ‘our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things’.
Both stories share the same central theme of ghost stories: ‘the ability of the dead to return and confront the living’, with ‘The Red Room’ being much more traditional than ‘A Little Place of the Edgware Road’. The Red Room is set in the Victorian era in very traditional Gothic setings. It is situated in an old, dark, gloomy castle, in which the inhabitants are described in a manner which makes them seem goulish and ghostlike.
The plot revolves around the young man who is staying in the castle purely so he can dispel any beliefs that the house is haunted.
A little place off the edgware road’ although it deviates from many of the Gothic traditions, is deeply rooted in its genre. It is set in nineteen thirties London, and the main place of action is an old picture house, although the setting inside the picture house is very much in keeping to the Gothic tradition of ghost stories. The plot revolves around a man, Craven, a seedy character who has a deep dark fear that the body stays alive after death and burial and the ghosts of the corpses freely roam the earth as they looked when they were killed.
He comes face to face with his darkest fear inside the cinema when he meets with what we are led to believe is a ghost. This ghost is the embodiment of all his fears, and ultimately results in Craven losing his mind. The Red Room is in first person narrative. This is again in keeping with the traditions of the genre. The reason that the story is written in this narrative is so that it makes the reader feel closer to the character.
It is to make the reader feel emotive towards the narrator, so when he is scared the reader feels scared for him. The narrator in ghost stories is usually a completely normal person who has nothing strange or peculiar about them, thus overcoming the scepticism of the reader. The Red Room is no exception to the rule, the narrator in this story is a completely normal, unimaginative, clinical man, who is completely unsuperstitious, this is why the reader is so shocked when he becomes panicky and really believes there is a ghost in the room.
The other story in comparison is completely in contrast to The Red Room. It is in the 3rd person narrative, and the male protagonist is not a normal, down to earth person, he is a seedy character, bordering on the edge of insanity. I believe Greene uses these options so that the reader can get a more in depth view of Cravens mental problems, because if he were describing himself he would obviously see himself as normal, so you wouldnt get the in depth description of him and his fears.
As has already been explained above, the male protagonists in both stories are as far dissimilair from each other as is possible. The man in ‘The Red Room’ is a young, intelligent man, who is very clinical about his observations, and is an unsuperstitious, unimaginative person. Wells uses words such as ‘clinical observation’ when talking about the mans assessment of his surroundings. This gives off the impression that the man would like to dispel any doubt in his mind that there was a possibility of another creature or being in the room with him.
However this ‘clinical observation’ is not enough resulting in the man having to light candles and place them all around the room to get rid of any dancing shadows, strange shapes etc. The character in ‘A Little Place off the Edgware Road’ is completely against the traditioanal normality. He is described as seedy, giving the impression that he is a kind of pervert, and the way he is dressed with his anorak done up right round his face gives the impression that he is a bit dirty and smelly.
As the story goes on you start to understand that Craven is a bit mad. THe narrator’s description of his thoughts about death, that he hopes when he dies that is it, he does not want the body to live on after death because he has a twisted view of the afterlife, he believes that when a body is buried it does not decay, and it just roams underground the world, which is like a honeycomb, a labyrinth of tunnels, leading up into the real world, where they walk freely, bodies as they were when they were buried decrepit and decaying.
Craven is very superstitious and does have some religious belief although it is described as being ‘like a worm lodged in a nut’, meaning it was inside of him but it was making him rotten, like a worm in a nut. Craven hates his body and ‘carries it around like something he hates’, he is extremeley jealous and envious of people who have good bodies, like the guardsmen.
The settings of both stories are contrasting in some ways but similair in others. They are both situated in dark areas, ‘The Red Room’ in the castle and ‘A Little Place off the Edgware Road’ in a cinema. The eras in which they are both set, however, are contrasting, one is set before a time of much scientific discovery, and one after, ironically, it is the one set after the discoveries which contains the most doubt and superstition.
The settings of both the stories help create an atmosphere of edginess, not quite knowing what lurks in the darkness beyond. BOth stories are set with some element of insanity in The Red Room it is the housekeepers who are senile, and in ‘A Little Place off the Edgware Road’ it is Craven who is mad. Both stories are based over a relatively short period of time, both events take place in a just one evening or night.
The Red Room builds up tension from the start when describing the houskeepers, he describes them as ‘grotesque custodians’ this portrays the castle as not a very nice place to be, but when the man is having a conversation with these grotesque custodians they are trying to persuade him notto go to the room, telling him that it is haunted and that it is ‘his own doing’ whether he goes up there or not, there is also added tension when they refuse to walk him to the room on account of being scared, there is also a recurring comment of ‘this night of all nights’ leading you to believe that this was a significant night in the haunting of the room.
When the man is walking to the Red Room he fills in the reader with the details of the haunting of the room, that two people have died as a result of the room, and that the stairs outside the door had been involved in both incidents. However as the man is clinical in his observations he dismisses these deaths as untimely heart attacks and stumbles etc. On his journey to the room the man describes his surroundings and describes when he sees the shadows of the brass and thinks that it may be a creature.
THis adds tension because he says he stood there for a while with his hand on his revolver, scared, when he knew it was just a trick of the light, this adds tension because it shows that even this man who seems scared of nothing was scared by a trick of shadows, showing his humanity and vulnerabiluity. When he gets to the room he describes the darkness, and how it had ‘the eerie feeling of a prescence’ and this leads him to get the candles.
When the main event starts happening, at first he dismisses it as a gust of wind so as not to get wound up but when he starts panicking he creates tension as his descriptions become more frantic and you feel his desperation. When all the lights go out tension is at a maximum with him running like a blind man, and eventually it climaxes with him knocking himself out. ‘A Little Place off the Edgware Road’ the suspense builds up with the narrators description of Cravens dreams, of his grotesque underground labyrinth of corpses. THis makes the reader feel as if Craven is possibly a bit crazy.
Then the tension dies down until he gets to the cinema where his dreams recur again, describing peoplelaying down as ‘corpses sprawled out’, when the film starts to play it is about the fall of a Roman Empire, the fall of a once great thing, which is the impression we get which has happened to Craven. When the ghost comes into the room you do not know that it is a ghost from the description, Greene uses the lack of visibilty well in his descriptions of Cravens impression, because Craven cannot see the ghost in a detailed way he does not know what is wrong with him.
He describes him like the man in ‘the Red Room’ describes the housekeepers, that he is disgusting. You are made to wonder what is wrong with the man because Craven is describing him as mad, yet Craven is mad aswell, which shows how mad he thinks the little man is. However when he starts talking about the murder and how he ‘knows about them things’ you begin to believe as does Craven that the man is a murderer and just as Craven goes to confront him he is gone, leaving all the tension lingering.
The endings are not dissimilar in the way that they both involve a change in the protagonist. ‘The Red Room’has a double twist, it ends with the man saying that indeed the room is haunted, leading you to believe that he has changed his views on the supernatural, only to be twisted again to say that it is no haunted by fear but by Fear. He says that fear gets to you and doesnt let go until it tips you over the edge and its all down to the human imagination. Soin fact he hadnt changed his mind but comes up with a logical explanation for it.
However it doe leave a question open for the reader, whether they believe him that it was purely fear, or that it was a ghost and the man knows this and is just saying this to keep up appearances. ‘A Little Place off the Edgware Road’ finishes with a twist as well, when Craven decides that the man is in fact a murderer and goes to inform the Police, he is confronted by his deepest fear, that the man he was actually speaking with in the cinema was in fact the ghost of the murdered body. This tips Craven over the edge and he finally goes compeltey mad.