Compare and contrast “The Darkness out There” with “The Red Room”

There are two messages in “The Darkness out There”

In “The Darkness Out There” Penelope Lively has a main focus. It is that our thoughts are manipulated greatly by the appearance of objects and most importantly people. Lively tries to put across that people cannot be judged by outward appearances, we can only judge when all is known of them.

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The main character in the story, Sandra is afraid of the truth and prefers to believe that which is myth or her own personal judgement. Lively also puts across the idea of stereotypes. She tries to explain that our society of today is mainly controlled by stereotypical views that have been escalated through the years.

“Everything is not as it appears, oh no!” (Line 384)

Message in “The Red Room”

As in “The Darkness Out There” H.G.Wells uses the idea of people being concerned of with imagery. This is not the only idea in this story. H.G.Wells also uses the idea of us being frightened of what “might be” and implies that we create our own problems by this fear because we blame it on the unknown. Wells uses this as a message in “The Red Room” because he is a scientific writer who wants to make sense of the unknown and rationalise what is happening and why it is happening.

“There is fear in that room… and there will be so long as this house of sin endures.”

The Darkness out There

The message in “The Darkness out There,” we shouldn’t judge by outward appearances is one that is well known and valid although it often isn’t used in everyday society.

There is that also that we shouldn’t stereotype people that you don’t know or understand. Lively shows that Sandra has very strong stereotypical views from the outset of the story.

“Pat had a funny eye, a squint, so that her glance swerved away from you as she talked. And a big chest jutting under washed out jerseys. Are people who help other people always not very nice looking.” (Lines 9-11)

Lively has had Sandra giving a very descriptive piece about “Pats'” appearance. “Funny eye,” this language is very childlike showing that Sandra is young and immature. .

“With his black licked down hair and slitty eyes. Some people you only have to look at to know they’re not up to much” (line 88-89)

This quote puts the message through on quite a literal level and gets across Sandra’s opinions and her thoughts. This is an unattractive physical appearance. He is described as having “licked down hair and slitty eyes,” this is quite an unusual description probably deceiving the reader into believing Sandra. Her judgement of Kerry is immediately contrasted by his generosity.

“He took out an Aero bar, broke off a bit, offered it”(lines 91-2)

Sandra doesn’t comment on the generosity of Kerry, she prefers to dismiss it, and stick with her original perception of Kerry. This dismissal proves that Sandra has a hypocritical view of Kerry and isn’t interested in what he is really like.

“She looked down at her own legs, the girl, bare brown legs brushing through the grass, polleny summer grass that glinted in the sun.”

From this description we can see that Sandra is very conscious of her own appearance. The alliteartion emphacises natural beauty. It is used to lull us in the idyllic setting which is being presented.

There is another very physical description of Kerry.

“His chin was explosive with acne, at his middle, his jeans yawned from his T-shirt showing pale chilly flesh” (lines 135-136)

A picture is being built up in the readers’ mind of Kerry but also of Sandra. Also this quote tells the reader that Kerry is not as developed as Sandra, although he seems more mature than her.

When Sandra introduces Mrs Rutter into the story there is quite a pleasant description of her. This contrasts the quite obscene description of Kerry. Lively has done this so that the reader doesn’t think that Sandra criticises everyone.

“She seemed composed of circles, a cottage-loaf of a woman, with a face below which chins collapsed one into another, a creamy smiling pool of a face in which her eyes snapped and darted.”(Lines 97-9)

This makes the reader relate Mrs Rutter to his or her own grandma, kind and generous. This statement is reflected when she refers to Germans as being “bastards.” The bad language used and stereotyping of the Germans makes the reader think otherwise of Mrs Rutter making them disagree with Sandra’s judgement. Mrs Rutter refers to the Germans as being “bastards” because she lost her husband in World War 2 in Belgium, she was very bitter about this and therefore hates all Germans.

“I thought why should I do anything for you? Nobody did anything for my Bill, did they?”(Line 339-40)

This statement shows the bitterness and coldness towards the Germans. Holding grudges against people is seen to be quite childish.

When a plane crashed down in the woods next to her house, she had no intentions of helping the pilots if they were German.

“Dot said we should maybe bike to the village but it was a filthy wet night, pouring cats and dogs, and fog, too, and we didn’t know whether it was one of ours or one of theirs, did we?”(Line 289-291)

Mrs Rutter expresses that herself and Dot were not prepared to get wet to report the incident when they “didn’t know whether it was one of ours or one of theirs.”(sic)

Mrs Rutter doesn’t realise that what she did, leaving those men in the plane is wrong, just because her husband was killed in the war in Belgium, doesn’t give her the right to punish someone who is probably as innocent as her husband was. This refers to the message in the story; Mrs Rutter has the darkness within her because she is prejudice against groups of people and not individuals.

Kerry is greatly affected by what Mrs Rutter says-

“The boy said ‘I’m not going near that old bitch again’ He leaned against the gate, clenching his fists on an iron rung; he shook slightly. ‘I won’t ever forget him, that poor sod'”

Kerry speaks about the German pilots as if he knew them. It has a great effect on him and he has a lot of anger for Mrs Rutter. This great effect on Kerry suddenly makes Sandra realise “that you can get people all wrong.” Sandra realises that Kerry isn’t really that bad,

“He had grown; he had got older and larger. His anger eclipsed his acne, the patches of grease on his jeans, his lardy midriff.”

Sandra realised that under his “acne” and “lardy midriff” there was a person with morals but also a kind heart. Sandra has also grown up as she realises this of Kerry.

Lively uses rhythm to show Sandra’s thought processes. There are a lot of long rambling sentences which switch about, almost confusing the reader because of the strange thoughts in her head. Also the tense is changed throughout the story making the story quite badly structured. Also it means that sometimes Sandra is speaking and others it means a narrator is speaking.

“The Red Room”

There is alliteration of the title – “Red Room,” this makes it stand out to the reader and makes you think about its meaning. Red is linked with blood and danger therefore hinting that the room is dangerous or death has occurred there.

H.G.Wells uses the description of people to create a vision in the reader’s mind without too much description. This is similar to “The Darkness out There” although there isn’t as much vivid description.

“The man with the withered arm” (Pg. 205)

“A second old man entered, more bent, more wrinkled, more aged than the first. He supported himself by a single crutch, his eyes were covered by a shade, and his lower lip, half averted, hung pale and pink from his decaying yellow teeth” (Pg. 205)

This description builds up a picture in the readers mind that this is a house of horror and that the people living in it are ‘freaks,’ although the main character does not seem phased by these people the reader can sense that they are not normal people.

From the outset of the story we can see that the main character does not believe in ghosts as he says-

“That it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me” (Pg. 205)

Ac we know, it is impossible to have a tangible ghost. The character is saying that he believes the ghost that there is claimed to be in the house is non-existent and that they are really afraid of what “might be.” This links with the message of the story.

The character that states he is not afraid of ghosts has obviously some fears in his mind.

“A bronze group stood upon the landing hidden… shadow fell with marvellous distinctness upon the white panelling and gave me an impression of someone crouching wayby me. I stood rigid for half a minute, perhaps” (Pg. 208)

This shows that even the people that claim to be fearless, still have there mind twisting quite innocent things cast in shadow in to something which we should fear. Also he says that he stood “rigid for half a minute, perhaps.” 30 seconds of standing silently is quite a long time. This shows that he need a lot of time to reassure himself that “that the bronze group” was safe to pass so he could carry on with his journey.

The man who is looking for “The Red Room” has been told the room is haunted,

“That odd suggestion of a lurking living thing that comes so easily in silence and solitude” (Pg. 210)

This is explaining that when there is no noise and nothing else to think about your mind begins to twist things and you start imagining what might be in the room ahead.

Again things are being twisted in the main characters mind.

“The long draughty subterranean passage was chilly and dusty, and my candle flared and made the shadows cower and quiver.” (Pg. 207-208)

Here H.G.Wells has used personification for added effect. The reader can see that this man is relating his own actions with the shadows around him. Shadows cannot “cower and quiver” if the are of an inanimate object although it is possible for him to be looking at his own shadows “cower and quiver.”

When the man is in the room strange happenings take place-

“I walked back, relit one, and as I did so, I saw the candle in the right sconce of one of the mirrors wink and go right out, and almost immediately its companion followed it.” (Pg. 211)

These strange happenings were meant to symbolise that there was a spirit in the room doing this to frighten the man. From these happenings the man doesn’t become frightened but he gets quite angry-

“This won’t do!”(Pg. 211)

“What’s up?” (Pg. 211)

He anger almost takes over him so that fear doesn’t and he can carry on his mission. This seems to work for him has he is not phased by the continuous pattern of candles going out. He is trying to do what the moral of the story tries to tell us, that we create our own problems because of our limited understanding and because this man doesn’t know for certain how this is happening he stays fearless.

At the end of the story the man who ventured into the room explains to the inhabitants what it is in the room-

“The worst of all things that haunt poor mortal man… and that is in all its nakedness-fear! Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms. It followed me through the corridor, it fought against me in that room-”

From this the people living in the house seem quite relieved by this comment. They know that it is them who are causing the problem and that will have to do something about it between them. He explains what he felt in the room, he was correct when he said, “it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me” as he new there were no ghosts nor was it haunted before he entered.

Similarities of the Two Stories

* Both short stories describe places, which hold fear. In “The Darkness Out There” Packers End is used as the place which people fear most as they will not see for themselves what is really there. Sandra, as an example prefers to believe that which is myth rather than see for herself. In “The Red Room” it is the room that is feared by the inhabitants of the house as they also dare not to find out for themselves what is really behind the door to that room. Again they prefer to believe myth.

* Both authors use death as a purpose for writing. In “The Darkness Out There” there was a German warplane, which crashed down in Packers End. This incident has caused a lot of people to not go near this place. In “The Red Room” there was a death in that room, and again the inhabitants in the house dare not go near there.

* In both stories the characters which are described as looking awful and not so nice, turn out to be the ones that have morals and are of nice nature. Where as the ones with a pleasant physical description turns out in the end to be the bad ones on the inside.

Differences of the Two Stories

* “The Red Room” is very mellow dramatic. It is written how you would expect a ghost story to be written. It is also set in a place where a typical ghost story would be set in although this does not make the story less interesting. “The Darkness out There” is set mainly outside on a sunny day, completely the opposite of what you would expect for this type of story.

* In “The Darkness Out There” there is fear at the outset of the story, which is the resolved by the end, as the message of the story is used and portrayed by doing this. In “The Red Room” it is different. The fear of the room by the three inhabitants is not resolved but they realise that as “long as this house of sin endures” (Sic) it will be there. Therefore they realise that as long as they are there then the fear will be there in that room.

* In “The Red Room” there are no names mentioned throughout the story. We only have reference to the different characters by their strange description e.g. “The man with the withered arm.” This stops the reader judging the character by their name but by the description given we certainly can. In “The Darkness Out There” names are given as well as a detailed description. This gives the reader two lots of information from which they are able to judge the characters by.

The Time in which The Stories Were Written

“The Darkness Out There” was written after the 2nd World War. This is obvious by the references to the war-

“…Nineteen forty two…” (Line 271)

“Is that the wood where there was that German plane came down in the war” (Line 258-9)

These quotes put the story in its time as we know it is after the war and also there is all the household appliances that we have today so we know it was written fairly recently. That is why the war is used as part of the story because it has had long enough for “Packers End” to have had an effect on the younger characters life.

Also the names used in the story for the young people are quite modern names-

“Sandra,” “Kerry” and “Susie.”

This shows that the story is in touch with the time period it was written in.

“The Red Room” is set before the 1900. This is obvious by the candles used in the story and no electric light. This shows that the story must have been written before electricity had been invented.

” My candle was a little tongue of vastness…” (Pg. 209)

The fear in “The Red Room” was written like it was because of the time it was set in. At this time science was not that well developed and therefore people couldn’t understand a lot of the things that we do nowadays. This wouldn’t be written about now because there may be some scientific explanation or theory behind these happenings in the room.

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