Writers use the ghost story genre in a number of ways; the books I am comparing are The Red Room by H. G. Wells, The Signalman by Charles Dickens and The Old Nurse’s story by Elizabeth Gaskell. The Red Room centres on an unnamed cocky, confident young man who doesn’t believe in ghosts. To prove ghosts don’t exist he decides to spend a night in an apparently haunted house. Despite ominous warnings from the elderly protectors of the house he does it anyway.
During the night strange things start happening in the room ‘I saw the candle in the right sconce of one of the mirrors wink and go right out, and almost immediately its companion followed it. The flame vanished, as if the wicks had been suddenly nipped between a finger and thumb, leaving the wick neither glowing nor smoking, but black. ‘ The narrator reacts by getting more and more frightened and hysterical. The Red Room’s setting is very typical the house is dilapidated and derelict and inhabited by people who neglect their own welfare .Order now
The signalman is a story about a signalman he tells the narrator who is an upper middle class gentlemen about a ghost that has been haunting him. During the story he reveals strange warnings of danger when his bell rings that only the signalman can hear. Each warning is followed by the appearance of a ghost and afterwards a terrible accident occurs. The Old Nurses Story is about a maid who goes to work in a manor house in the middle of nowhere. But there are strange things happening in the old house. The maid discovers that her master told her father that her sister had had an illegal baby without his knowledge.
In The Red Rooms the main character is the narrator as it is in first the person. It fits into the genre very well I think because as it is in first person you see what the narrator sees. You have no idea of what’s coming next. The main character is very cocky and confident and so it clashes immediately with the withered, elderly protectors of the house. So already it gets you thinking about what’s going to happen next. In the Signalman the main characters are the signalman and the narrator who is an upper middle class gentleman who is staying in a hotel further up the road.
The gentleman is a sceptic and tries to give a logical answer to every anomaly; the narrator fits into the genre because, like the Red Room, there is a gentleman who refuses to believe in the unusual. ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’s main character is a nurse who looks after the master of the house. The nurse is a young lady from a lower class background. This story fits very well into the gothic horror genre as you have the young woman and child, they are seen as vulnerable; children because they are young and impressionable and young women because they are thought of as weak, and an easy target for ghosts and other evil things.
The Old Nurse’s story is child friendly. It has a simple structure and events lead on logically with just one flash back which explains why the ghost of a child is haunting the narrator. In the Red Room at the beginning of the book the author creates atmosphere and setting effectively by setting a gothic scene. He does it by having very strange people by a warm fire, “The man with the withered arm,” “The old woman” and “The man covered by a shade. ” These characters all create a sense of uneasiness about them. One character is known all the way through as “The man with the shade,” This adds mystery, fear and confusion to the reader.
At the very beginning of the story the young gentlemen is repeatedly warned about going into the red room the ‘old woman’ keeps saying to the narrator that its ”your own choosing”, the young man repeatedly answers firmly that he still wants to go into the red room. In the Signalman the author immediately creates tension. The quote where the signal man instead of looking directly where the voice of the man came from, which was very clear, he ‘”turned himself about and looked down the line'”, it immediately creates tension because you have no idea what the signalman is looking at, although you do find out later.
In ‘The Old Nurse’ Story’ Gaskell creates a very typical setting for this type of story. In the opening part of the story it enthralls children listeners by Gaskell making the first words as ” you know, my dears, that your mother was an orphan, and an only child it also gives a lot of background knowledge about the Rosamond family. The maid is driven to the manor house; the road to the manor house is wild, desolate and a nasty place. The road to the house has ”gnarled thorn-trees, and old oaks, all white with age”.
It gives you the idea that the road to the manor house is a sinister, hair-rising passage. But as the narrator arrives at the manor house it is ”all clear, the great oval drive was without a weed; and neither tree nor creeper was allowed to grow over the long, many-windowed front. ” These descriptions of the house driveway and the manor house clash, the descriptions give the idea that the house is very isolated, secluded place and that no-one has visited the house in a long time. H. G Wells enthrals the reader immediately. Even before the narrator goes into the red room, the passage is ”chilly and dusty”.
It gives the idea that the narrator is walking into a tomb. When the narrator goes into the red room, by using adjectives and metaphors, such as ” ocean of mystery” and ”like a ragged storm cloud sweeping out the stars” he shows the reader what the narrator is seeing. As the narrator pushes open the ”baize-covered” door H. G Wells describes the moonlight covered room in ”vivid” detail.
As the narrator looks around the room he sees ”A bronze group stood upon the landing, hidden from 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. ” It was actually a Greek statue but the narrator is shook up a bit and throughout the story the narrator gets more and more scared. Charles Dickens keeps the reader guessing in the middle of the book, wondering what is going to happen next and why the signalman is asking these peculiar questions.
The first time the narrator visits the signalman in his hut he asks the narrator not to ”call out, when you are at top”. This is peculiar as the reader and narrator does not know what is going on yet. But the narrator and reader find out that it is so the signalman does not mistake the narrator for the ghost. When the narrator has said goodnight to the signalman, he walks down the railway line and has a ”very disagreeable sensation of a train coming behind me”. Charles Dickens is playing with the reader’s fear and power of trains and making the reader feel scared.
The next meeting with the signalman the narrator is told about the ghost the signalman apparently sees. The signalman describes to the narrator how every time he sees the ghost appalling things happen, people die. All the while it keeps the reader riveted to the book. In the middle of the Old Nurses Story Hester is kept busy by not letting Miss Rosamond escape to the malevolent ghost child taunting her to come and play. Miss Furnivall has a premonition of a ”terrible winter”. The premonition makes the reader wonder what will happen especially when Miss Stark ”pretends not to hear”.
This makes the reader even more suspicious. In the final part of the Red Room the narrator who was previously cocky and very confident about himself is petrified and nervous. The candles start going out and the tension builds and builds until the fire goes out. It is very melodramatic and final. It is repeated three times for added effect. All the while the reader is wondering what is going on and where the ‘ghost’ is. The narrator is getting more and more terrified. As the lights go out the narrator screams ”with all my might- once, twice, thrice. ‘ The narrator runs wildly around and gets knocked out by running into some furniture. In the morning the ”old man” changes his attitude completely. ‘
‘He spoke no longer as one who greets an intruder, but as one who grieves for a broken friend” as the old man feels that another confident and cocky young man has fallen to the Red Room. In the final part of the Signalman the reader finds out that the signalman all along was not seeing the ghost. The signalman dies when he thinks he sees the ghost again but it is in fact a man warning the signalman that a train is coming down the track.
In the final part of the Old Nurses Story Hester uncovers an appalling secret about Mrs Furnivall. In the climax of the story the reader gets to see the ghost of the lord of the house. The lord has ”gleaming eyes” and ”grey hair”. Miss Rosamond is almost possessed by the ghosts she is ”writhing” and ”sobbing in my arms”. It is very typical of the genre that children get possessed or get drawn to ghosts. The story has a very typical and melodramatic ending to the story.