The Red Room by H.G. Wells Characters

Instructor: Karen Wolak

Karen has taught 4-8th grade English/Language Arts and has worked closely with adult learners for several years. M.Ed. in Adult Education.

When it comes to creating a scary story, you have to look beyond a spooky setting and a gripping plot. Characters are also important! Let's review the characters in '~'The Red Room'~' by H.G. Wells, and how they contribute to the mood of the story.

Setting the Mood

''The Red Room'' by H.G. Wells is a short story about a haunted castle. Scary stories often send a chill up our spine, but have you ever stopped to wonder how an author accomplishes this?

Characterization refers to the intentional design of characters within a story. The characters in ''The Red Room'' are designed with the intention of contributing to the story's mood. Let's take a closer look at these characters and how they do this.

The Narrator

''The Red Room'' is told through the eyes of the unnamed narrator. He is an investigator seeking to dispel the rumors of a Red Room haunting at Lorraine Castle. We do not know for certain whether he is a detective, a paranormal investigator, or someone privately called upon to look into the matter. However, we know that he carries a revolver and is skeptical of the supernatural.

The narrator is investigating the haunting of Lorraine Castle.
Detective

Like any good investigator, the narrator tries to remain objective. He describes himself as having a ''scientific attitude of mind.'' He knows enough to complete ''a systematic investigation of the place, and so, by leaving nothing to the imagination.'' For someone in this role, however, he also seems to be easily spooked. The caretakers of the castle alone seem to unnerve him.

His fear grows as the story continues. On his way to the Red Room, the narrator is startled by shadows and statues. He has nervous, muttered conversations with himself about the impossibility of the existence of ghosts. He is intimidated by darkness. At the climax of the tale, he knocks himself unconscious in a fit of panic.

The Caretakers

The narrator interacts with three elderly caretakers of the castle: two men and one woman. One of the men has a withered hand. The other man has bloodshot eyes that he hides under the brim of a hat. The woman seems almost catatonic at the beginning, staring absently into the fireplace. All three seem unfriendly and a bit incredulous that the narrator intends to spend the night in the Red Room. The man with the withered hand repeatedly states, ''It's of your own choosing,'' reminding the narrator that he is responsible for his choice to be there.

It seemed like the old woman was in a trance.
Old Lady

The caretakers tend to the narrator the following morning. They bandage his head and ask him what happened. The narrator observes, ''The three of them in daylight seemed commonplace old folk enough.'' He wonders why he was so bothered by them the night before.

Unseen Characters

There are also a few unseen characters in ''The Red Room.'' Unseen characters are characters that are never physically present in a story. For example, the narrator in ''The Red Room'' recalls the young Duke, who was sent to investigate the haunting of the Red Room before him. The Duke's unconscious body was found at the bottom of the stairs outside of the Red Room. He reportedly sustained head injuries and died soon after. The narrator comments that his death contributed to the rumors of Lorraine Castle's haunting.

The characters around which the haunting is based are also unseen. They are referred to as the earl and his wife, the countess. The only thing we know about them is that an incident occurred involving ''a timid wife and the tragic end that came to her husband's jest of frightening her.''

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