Compare and contrast how the language and techniques used create characters, atmosphere and setting in The Red Room and A Vendetta In this essay, I will compare and contrast two stories; The Red Room by H. G. Wells, and A Vendetta by Guy De Maupassant. Both of these authors use confusion and contrast, in both the characters, the setting and the atmosphere in their stories. These techniques help to keep the reader interested and excited, by keeping the story unpredictable. The language used to create characters in both stories causes some confusion, both over their own views, and over the views of the reader in relation to the characters.
The narrator of The Red Room’s opinion changes and twist sharply in the story, and in A Vendetta, the reader is manipulated into pitying different characters throughout the story. Both of these confusion techniques, although they may not have been used intentionally by the authors, serve to make the story less predictable, and therefore more interesting and entertaining. The narrator of The Red Room is a logical, matter-of-fact person, but when he enters the Red Room, all his logic is lost. The phrase “last vestiges of reason crushed” demonstrates how a sensible, rational person can completely lose control in the wrong situation.
Using the term “last vestiges” in this way gives the impression that, although he hadn’t shown it, the narrator had already been becoming more and more afraid and irrational as the night went on. The word “crushed” seems to show that after this event, the narrator has no hope of pulling back his rationality. There is a strange contrast between the characters, in that the narrator gives the impression at the start that he is not scared about the haunted room by saying he will only believe in a “tangible ghost”.
The word “tangible” shows that the narrator would need a ghost so realistic that not only could he see it, he could actually feel it. He suggests that ghosts cannot possibly exist as he has never seen one, whereas the other characters in the story are clearly frightened enough to make a point of warning him about the dangers of the ghost. The old woman’s phrase “many things to see” seems to warn the narrator about his own youthful foolishness, and perhaps foreshadows the terrors of the story’s climax. Wells’ other stories are mostly science fiction, and this leads me to believe that he is probably a firm believer in science.
The story could be trying to convince people that many superstitions are untrue, and, in using a young man who is very logical and reasonable, but ultimately collapses under the terrors of the room, makes it seem at first that superstition’s case is winning. The narrator panics in the Red Room, and it seems that all he believes in is being thrown into question. The quote “shadows I feared” shows that he has become terrified of the very ghosts he denied at the start. But then, he realises afterwards that all that was scaring him in the Red Room was fear itself.
Although Wells may not have been doing this deliberately, he seems to be trying to convince people that science is the truth, by taking a supernatural scenario, explaining and demystifying it. Using this method of twisting the story until the end might have helped convince some readers at the time of publication. Because it seems, until the very end, that superstition has won, the final twist of reminding the reader that, convincing as it may seem, the ‘haunted room’ wasn’t haunted, could have made readers recognise that some very believable irrationalities are, in fact, untrue.
At the time this story was written, many new studies of science were just appearing. For example Charles Darwin’s famous book, On The Origin Of Species was published in 1859, 35 years before The Red Room. A lot of people who would have been deeply religious were becoming much more aware of science. Because of this, there was fierce conflict between science and religion. H. G. Wells seemed to be contributing to the rise in science, by trying to persuade readers that ghosts do not exist.
However, a more subtle technique is used, when there are certain aspects of the story which aren’t fully explained. For example, when the fire in the Red Room goes out, could a draught possibly have caused it? This is not explained, and in leaving the reader at a loose end like this, the author seems to be admitting that science can explain nearly everything, but not quite. This could have helped some readers accept that both science and religion could be true at the same time, contributing to a more modern way of thinking which often regards them as complementary, rather than strict alternatives.
Wells might have only wanted to ‘convert’ people because he knew no other way to write stories, or it might be because this is his deepest belief and he felt the need to spread the wonders of science further. Whatever the reason, the narrator’s changing character helps create an interesting and exciting story, which would have been a reason it was so popular. The language in The Red Room was carefully selected to convey this contrasting and mixed-up character. In A Vendetta, there is a similar confusion and controversy around the characters, because the reader is left partly at a loss as to which character’s ‘side’ they should be on.