The two short stories are very similar in terms of the period in history in which they were written, as well as both being of a similar style of story and genre. But both writers convey an air of mystery and surprise in the two short stories slightly different in some areas, with one of the two sometimes having the greater effect. In The Red Room, by H. G. Wells, the story begins with the three words of the title at the top of the page. The capitalization of ‘the’ not only signifies the title of the story, but also the importance of the Red Room in the story to come.
Also, the colour red is often associated with motifs of either love and comfort, or blood and death/murder. In the sense of the colour being used to mean the latter, the prominence of the word throughout the story is significant in creating an air of mystery and surprise for the reader. The story also begins with dialogue which can be separated into different literary techniques used clever in a short space to convey a sense of immediacy. The use of personal pronouns, ‘I’ and ‘you’, create this image of closeness between the reader and the narrator, with the accompanying verb ‘assure’ creating a sense of surety.
The whole passage is also written in the first person, and contains a lot more dialogue than The Signalman in the form of direct speech. First person always creates a sense of immediacy, and this in turn can create a sense of mystery. Anonymity conveys an air of surprise and mystery from when it first used at the beginning of the passage, with each of the characters not being referred to with a given name. ‘The man with the withered arm’, ‘the man with the shade’, and other descriptions portray a sense that the elderly people are worn and the signs of old age can be seen in their disabilities.
Age is another motif used by Wells to help the reader feel a sense of mystery, where the old and the young are reversed frequently towards the end of the story, and history is referred to in the red room itself. The death of a young duke in the past, and other deaths which have happened in the Castle, provide the reader with exposition to create an air of surprise as to what has happened, and mystery as to what might happen to him. Age is also referred to in speech, where he reveals that he is quite young, at ‘eight-and-twenty-years’.
He also references to having drunken from an ’empty glass’, which symbolises the emptiness found within the opening room with the elderly, and leaving them behind to their own fate when he ‘shut them in and walked down the chilly, echoing passage. ‘ It is in this line where the narrator chooses to be alone rather than stay in the comfort of the elderly people, which is an act of bravery and conveys surprise in his decision for the reader. Repetition used by the anonymous also replicates a slight mantra where the old people say phrases continuously to make the man rest for the night with them instead of alone.
‘This night of all nights? ‘ is a phrase used by the old woman, and the phrasing of the sentence changes from exclamation to show surprise, to a query to emphasise the mystery of the room and the setting being at night time. The narrator later describes the older anonymous people belonging to ‘another age, an older age’, implying that he believes them to be ghosts themselves, or not all they seem to be in truth, which creates a sense of mystery in the form of further anonymity.
Dickens also uses anonymity at a glance in The Signalman, in ‘the nameless horror’ which had not been described before to the narrator, much like the fear in The Red Room being unknown to the elderly people. The supernatural was also being used by Wells to create an ongoing sense of surprise and mystery, more so in surprise. When introducing the older residents of the Castle, Wells uses adjectives which change the atmosphere to a darker state than was previously, by using ‘spiritual’ and ‘droning’.
Commas also used throughout the story reflect the flowing of the dead about a room, either fast paced to scare a person, or slowly to comfort and help. In the path which he takes to embark on the Red Room, the narrator describes his pathway as being partly a spiral staircase. Spiral staircases were perfect in the Middle Ages of those defending the castle to do so, as it was harder for the offense to invade without knowing what was round the other side of the spiral steps, yet the paranormal being and ghosts seems to roam freely amongst the staircase, which shows that the ghosts are everywhere and cannot be escaped from easily.
Eeriness is also felt when Wells uses silhouettes on the full-moon night by using objects to become other things in the darkness. A Ganymede and Eagle and Chinaman were used to create suspense and surprise for both the reader and the narrator passing by, with his disturbance and vulnerability easily recognised when he pulls out his revolver twice in the passage. The use of the ‘pallid’ to describe silence can be interpreted as being one of supernatural meaning, describing a silence as something it cannot be using personification, and the colour of ghosts or those who have seen the paranormal and have received fright turn a pale colour.
With pale also having connotations with being timid, the silence is describe as not showing all of what it is in its shy and dormant state. Light and dark is then used by Wells to create mystery, and the narrator is seen to have battles with the candles as they fade out individually. Use of fragile materials to adorn the Red Room, such as china, creates a sense of mystery and fragility amongst the room. And when fully in the room, the verbs change to being in present participle, to give a sense of immediacy one more.
The room is also dark with the small figures of candles being used to make it light, and the mirrors make the room smaller as the room can visualize him and surrounds him in every angle. This sense of paranoia is then heightened when the candles are extinguished, with the narrator hearing nothing, ‘as if the wicks had been suddenly nipped between a finger and, thumb, leaving the wick neither glowing nor smoking, but black’, in this unnatural way. Wells then develops the narrator’s ‘absentmindedness’ to a slight image of either insanity of the presence of paranormal beings.
The tense then suddenly switches past tense to convey a sense of both immediacy and speed in the actions and all happens very quickly. The motif is colours, and of light and dark, is used in The Signalman as well, with many of the attire worn is of dark colours, ‘rough dark dress’ or even the colour “worn” by the tunnel being black, often owing to the common perceptions of Hell and/or Purgatory where people are cleansed of wrong-doings or illnesses of the mind, are much reminiscent of a funeral and a connotation of death from the beginning of the short story.