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Tension in Farthing House By Susan Hill And The Red Room Essay


Compare the tension between the novel Farthing House by Susan Hill and the novel The Red Room by H.G.Wells

Gothic writing is a style of writing, which was extremely popular in the nineteenth century. It is a story set with the theme of horror in a supernatural way. All gothic writers followed the same concept when writing a novel. They all consisted of a large, dark, abandoned place; for example a castle or mansion; where a man of the modern age would encounter many 'supernatural' obstacles. The character would never die for the story was told in a first person perspective and therefore when he dies, the story dies with him. Firstly, dramatic tension is a literary device designed to provoke fear, suspense or excitement in a reader. Both Dickens and Hill use it in their respective texts however they do not use it in identical ways. Many similarities can be drawn between the texts but there are crucial differences in the use of this device that are not so evident. Characterisation is used by Dickens to bring many different profiles to the reader.

In the two stories that we have read each story explores the feeling of horror and fear. We are examining how each character in each story reacts to the ghost that they encounter. In each story the characters react very different to the diverse types of ghost that they meet. Well's story of the The Red Room' boasts a young, very energetic and arrogant man who thinks that it will take a very tangible ghost' to scare him, but panics when confronted with occurrences which challenge his scientific hypothesis. On the other hand, Hill's story of the Farthing House reveals a timid yet experienced and mature woman who does not panic because she understands and feels sympathy for the crying ghost.

In The Red Room the young man is on a mission to explore and expose the tale of The Red Room that is supposedly haunted, because he says It's my own choosing'. He is in the building to go into The Red Room to prove that the spiritual terrors of the house are nothing that cannot be proven by science. He is obviously very brave and determined but inexperienced as pointed out by the old couple that say, eight and twenty years you have lived and never seen, the likes of this house.'

This seems to be a more direct and intense approach to the ghost. Alternatively the storyteller in the Farthing House meets the ghost accidentally. This is brought about when her assigned room had a serious leak' and so was taken to the Cedar room.

Firstly she is happy due to the size of the room, but later when she goes upstairs to get the photographs, she hears crying and then when she had entered the room, she got a viable feeling that someone had been' in her room. This, unlike The Red Room seems a more relaxed and indirect approach to the ghost. Also this woman does not have a firm belief in science or against superstition. This is shown when she says I had never either believed or disbelieved in ghosts.'

The ghosts that each storyteller encounters are very different. The supposed ghost in The Red Room seems to mimic a poltergeist, which is very noisy and aggressive as shown, when in the room; there vanished four lights at oncethe darkness closed upon mesealed my vision.'

This supposed ghost also keeps knowledge of the whereabouts of the occupant; this is shown when this ghost took another step towards' the storyteller. This ghost evidently is very frightening and threatening, but at the end of the story it is revealed that there was no ghost, it is just the fear aroused in the man, which caused him to suffer as shown by him when he says, that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms.'

Whereas the ghost in the Farthing House is unconcerned for the occupants of the house but only cares for her own personal trauma. This is shown because the ghost only enters the room and cries but does not harm anyone.

The mans emotions in The Red Room would be the same as most people when confronted with a ghost: scared. This is shown when he says, my hands trembled'. All his emotions were cluttered due to these ghostly appearances that disintegrated him mentally. So he panicked; I dropped the matchesI stumbled and fell.' He was evidently disorientated, could not think, frantic' with horror and his self-possession' had deserted him.

But the woman in the Farthing House was not scared as emotionally as the man, but was physically terrified, as shown by her when she says,

I was soaked in sweat, shaking, terrified.' She was also intrigued by these ghostly occurrences, because she felt the sorrow of this ghost and so was sympathetic towards it. This is shown when she says; I was desperate to follow her, because I felt that she needed me in some way.'

This reflects the inner bonding between women, even if it is a ghost. This concludes that she wasn't mentally challenged and so did not suffer as much as the man in The Red Room. Later on when the storyteller is visiting a graveyard she sees the grave of a young woman and her baby, this causes her to find out the tragic story behind the occurrences and so no longer feels intrigued and hollow.

The settings for both stories are very different. In The Red Room the author has placed the storyteller in a very intense setting. In The Red Room the storyteller is in a castle which is very gloomy and dark, the characters are very old and distrustful as they were not cooperative and warning the storyteller, maybe trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house by their droning insistence.'

This castle was given the basic characteristics of being a very scary structure, and set the platform for a very good horror story, an example is; The long draughty subterranean passage was chilly and dusty and my candle flared and made the shadows cower and quiver.'

Albeit the woman in the Farthing House was put in a very relaxed setting. The Farthing House is very contemporary. It had framed photographs on a sideboard, flowers in jugs bowls.' and was managed by polite people, to summarise the setting of the Farthing House the storyteller says Farthing house was run, warm and comfortable, and there was good, home-cooked dinner.'

As you can see it is a contrast to the Red Room.

The Red Room was written at the turn of the century, where belief in science dominated. Whereas the Farthing House was written in 1993, close to the millennium, people were more radical and not only have strong belief in superstition, science but also in bizarre cults.

I mentioned this to reflect the fact that The Red Room had a definite and clear explanation of the ghostly occurrences, whereas the Farthing House simply mentioned a ghost, but are ghosts real or not? Susan Hill's story is relating to people who believe that anything can happen, that are totally irrational, and they are lost in a world lacking faith and need some proper guidance.

All this is my personal response to the stories, and I prefer The Red Room because it was a complete story, plus it explains why the things happened in the first place. I firmly believe that there is reason behind everything that is happening, be it mental or physical.

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