The stories I am going to study are; ‘The Red Room’ by H. G. Wells, ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens and ‘The Judge’s House’ by Bram Stoker. These stories were all written in the nineteenth century at the time of the Victorians. They were an extremely popular form of entertainment as there was no television, films or videos. Many of the short stories written in the nineteenth century were first published in magazines and newspapers. Mystery and supernatural stories were very popular in the Victorian age as the Victorians were fascinated by the supernatural.
During these times Sherlock Holmes wrote his first book and authors such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and M. R. James began to address the era’s fascination with death. In each of the three stories there are a number of minor characters, which contribute a lot to the stories. The characters issue words of warnings, which are continually ignored by the protagonist. At the beginning of the Red Room it says, “It is of your own choosing,” said the man with the withered arm.Order now
The story does not tell us what the man is called, it just tells us about his arm leaving us to wonder what has happened to him and who is this character. So at the very start of the story we are already left in suspense. The man with the withered arm repeats this phrase throughout the whole story. This adds to the apprehension of the story. The next minor character we meet is the old woman, yet again we are not given her real name. This adds to the mystery of the story.
When the man with the withered arm was talking the old woman sat staring hard into the fire with her pale eyes wide pen. We then wonder what has happened to leave the old woman in shock staring at the fire. She then speaks: “and eight – and – twenty years you have lived and never seen the likes of this house, I reckon. There’s a many things to see, when ones still but eight and twenty,” This leaves me, the reader, to wonder what the old lady has heard about the room or what she thinks is in the room. Later on in the story when the man with the withered arm says, “But if you go to the red room tonight” “This night of all nights” said the woman “You go alone”
These comments leave me to wonder what these two characters know about what will happen tonight and why the man must go alone. To me it implies that something has happened in the room and it could be the anniversary of some terrible event. The old woman repeats this saying throughout the story just like the way the man with the withered arm repeats, “It is your own choosing” So throughout the story of the Red Room the minor characters add a lot of suspense by their descriptions and what they say! In ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens the minor character is the signalman.
When the man and the signalman come face to face the signalman is very quiet and unable to speak much. This makes me wonder why and what has possibly happened. Later on in the story when the signalman is speaking to the man he says, “If ever you make me another visit, I will try to tell you. ” These few words add a lot of suspense and I begin to wonder what will the signalman tell the man. Without saying many words in the story the signalman already adds a lot of suspense to the story that shows us how important these minor characters are to it.
The signalman’s reactions also add to the suspense of the story. In ‘The Judge’s House’ by Bram Stoker there are four minor characters. They are, My Carnford, Mrs Witham, Mrs Dempster and Dr Thornhill. Mr Carnford, the local lawyer confessed his delight at anyone being willing to live in the house. “To tell you the truth,” said he, “I should be only too happy, on behalf of the owners, to let anyone have the house rent free. ” I then wonder why is he so glad to let Malcolm Malcolmson live in the house rent free and what is wrong with the house.
It indicates that there could be some kind of history surrounding the house. Malcolm Malcolmson then goes to see Mrs Witham, who is the landlady of the inn and a newcomer to the area who seems to be aware of the rumours surrounding the house. Mrs Witham says to Malcolmson, “Not in the Judge’s house! ” she grew pale as she spoke I wonder why Mrs Witham goes so pale and what is wrong with the Judge’s house. Already there is a lot of suspense in the story.
Mrs Witham is a kind yet curious character and is very motherly to Malcolm Malcolmson, maybe this is why she is so fearful for him to stay at the house. Later on in the story the doctor is introduced and asks Malcolmson what he noticed in the house. Dr Thornhill, an educate, thinks Malcolmson has been drinking strong tea at night when Malcolmson tells him what happened. This makes me think that the doctor does not believe in these rumours but it also makes me wonder what he knows about the house and what Malcolm should have noticed because Dr Thornhill asks Malcolmson what he noticed in the house.
Another character, Mrs Dempster, is also very sceptical of the Judge’s house. “Do you think there’s no rats and beetles there? And do you imagine, sir, that you won’t see none of them! Rats is boogies and boogies is rats; and don’t you get to think anything else! ” she says. Throughout each of the stories the minor characters give warnings to the protagonist but these warnings are always ignored and are always vital to what will soon happen to the protagonist.
I have come to the conclusion that a story written in the nineteenth century is not just about the main character but it is about all the characters including the minor characters no matter how minor they are. All the minor characters, no matter how minor they are add to the suspense of the story for the reader, either by their reaction, descriptions or what they say. I have also concluded that the minor characters all seem to give warnings to the protagonist, which should be listened to.