Gothic literature is written to induce fear. To make a story frightening, you have to have the unexplained, an element of the grotesque, strange noises or silence and an ominous series of events. A typical gothic setting could be a castle or an old abandoned house, as long as it is spooky. Gothic atmosphere is created by strange ‘goings on’ and the weather. For example a storm would set a good atmosphere for a gothic novel. Tension and suspense are also important elements of atmosphere.
The characters would be strange in a typical gothic novel, possibly deformed or just very odd. The grotesque custodians in The Red Room are an example of this. These are all techniques used to put a chill down the spine and curdle the blood. The authors wrote these stories to thrill and scare the reader. The title of The Red Room gives the images of blood and danger and romance or passion. As this is a gothic story you know it is blood and fear that is implied by the title. The title of The Signalman doesn’t tell you much about the gothic elements of the story.
The writer chose to use the first person, by using the narrator, to make you feel as if you’re there and so he could include the thoughts going on inside his head. In The Red Room the narrator has no knowledge of ghosts, ‘eight and twenty years, I have lived, and never a ghost have I seen as yet. ‘ However as his journey progresses he ongoes his journey to the unknown. In The Signalman the story unfolds in a different manner. The first visit builds up tension but yet he goes back. The second builds suspense but again he returns. There is an unexpected twist at the end, which could be put down to supernatural means or pure coincidence.
The narrators in these stories have to be believable to make it more real and scarier for the reader. In The Red Room the narrator came to the house with ‘an open mind’ and skepticism, ‘It will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me. ‘ ‘If I see anything tonight, I shall be so much the wiser. For I come to the business with an open mind. ‘ However the narrator is very affected by this experience, ‘my self possession left me,’ which shows how horrifying this is to affect such a level headed and skeptical man, ‘crushed to the last vestiges of fear.
‘ Similarly in The Signalman the narrator is not convinced although he resists the supernatural, ‘resisting the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine. ‘ He is intelligent and logical and he also believes that the signalman’s imagination was fooling him, ‘your imagination misleads you. ‘ Although he is a man with an open mind the narrator was not convinced by the signalman’s tale, ‘I succeeded far better than in the attempt to reason him out of his conviction. ‘ The characters in a gothic story are typically physically deformed or have strange behavior.
The characters in The Red Room, the 3 custodians, conform to both of these stereotypes, ‘withered arm,’ ‘lower lip… hung pale and pink from his decaying yellow teeth. ‘ ‘Belonging to another age. ‘ At the start they seem very hostile which may have been used to cover up their fear. At the end they are very different, ‘no longer as one who greets an intruder, but one who grieves for a broken friend. ‘ On the other hand the signalman is not so much the typical gothic character.
Although on the surface he seems a bit weird, as the narrator talks to him he is very intelligent and ‘one of the safest men to be employed in that capacity. ‘ The setting in any story is important but especially in a gothic story as it sets atmosphere as well. A typical setting could be a castle, haunted house or any other place which is spooky and threatening. In The Red Room the writer uses a castle with winding staircases, subterranean passages and strange mirrors. Also the use of shadows is very effective, ‘shadow came sweeping up after me.
‘ The setting in The Signalman is not as typical of gothic literature but is still eerie and frightening. There are a lot of adjectives to increase the suspense, ‘dripping-wet wall,’ ‘earthy, deadly smell,’ ‘as if I had left the natural world. ‘ In conclusion I would say that The Red Room has more of the typical elements of a gothic story although I found The Signalman to be a more interesting story. I thought these were quite good stories to compare, as they are both quite different although both fall into the category of gothic literature.