The Red Room by H.G. Wells Quotes

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

This lesson summarizes H.G. Wells' short story ~'~'The Red Room.~'~' We explore themes related to the haunted house, science, and superstition. We also learn about the plot and its characters through quotes from the story.

A Ghost Story

H.G. Wells was a famous science fiction writer. In The Red Room (1896), Wells tries his hand at horror. With Gothic horror overtones reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe, The Red Room defines the line between superstition and science.

There's nothing creepier than a haunted castle in the dead of night; the danger is both ever-present and invisible at the same time. In The Red Room, a young man, 28, who never divulges his name, pays a visit to Lorraine Castle, which is said to be haunted. A year before, another brave soul, whom he refers to as 'his predecessor,' had attempted such an investigation into the supernatural: ''the scene of my vigil, the great Red Room of Lorraine Castle, in which the young Duke had died; or rather in which he had begun his dying, for he had opened the door and fallen headlong down the steps I had just ascended. That had been the end of his vigil, of his gallant attempt to conquer the ghostly tradition of the place, and never, I thought, had apoplexy better served the ends of superstition.'' The Duke had fallen down the stairs, hit his head, and died from an apparent brain bleed.

A Haunted Castle?

Superstition and Science

The man prides himself in his level-headed, rational mind. Still, he's curious about the supernatural. ''I come to the business with an open mind.'' He believes in the scientific method, which he calls ''my scientific attitude of mind.''

The castle has been sitting unoccupied for a year, ever since the Duke lost his life on the landing of the stairwell. The property is now under the management of three old custodians (i.e. caretakers). ''They seemed to belong to another age, an older age, an age when things spiritual were indeed to be feared, when common sense was uncommon, an age when omens and witches were credible, and ghosts beyond denying.'' He wants nothing to do with their ''vague fore-shadowings.''

''I half suspected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house by their droning insistence.'' The custodians appear to be senile and perhaps hard of hearing. He has to repeat himself several times and raise his voice in order to be excused from the conversation. He's anxious to begin his 'vigil.'

17 Candles

The narrator prepares his methodical investigation by lighting as many candles as he can find. He places them strategically around the room, as if more light can dispel the anxious feeling within him that something is lurking in the darkness. ''My candle was a little tongue of light in the vastness of the chamber; its rays failed to pierce to the opposite end of the room, and left an ocean of dull red mystery and suggestion, sentinel shadows and watching darknesses beyond its island of light. And the stillness of desolation brooded over it all.''

The Red Room
red room

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