During this coursework, I will be studying and comparing two short stories in order to see how fear is created in different styles of thriller writing. The two short stories I will be using for this essay are `Hobo’ and `The Red room’. Robert Bloch wrote `Hobo’ at the start of the 20^th century and its setting is in America. During this time, the country was in the grips of a depression and many people were unemployed, living as tramps (or in American terms Hobos). `The Red room’ is also a Non-modern story but H. G Wells wrote it earlier on, in the 19^th century.
Both stories build up fear using escriptive writing and characterisation but use these techniques in varying ways. The setting of a story can be one of the most important ways of creating and expressing fear. `Hobo’s setting is on a freight train, which is moving away from an American town. It is set in the half darkness of evening and throughout the story, it gets darker. This darkness sets the readers mind on the unknown and since the unknown is scary for everyone, this is a crucial element in creating fear in the setting.
The author describes this as a `deepening twilight’. The boxcar on the freight in which the story is set is usty and enclosed (A very uncomfortable place to spend any time). From where he sits Hannigan can look out of the open box car door and see the city flash by like a chain of lights `A solid neon chain’. The time of year is probably summer, you can see this in the sentence `Feeling the perspiration trickle down under the folds of the dirty jacket’; he is sweating so it is likely to be hot.
The description of the scene really helps the reader to create a mental image of the setting and helps them to imagine just how enclosed, claustrophobic and stifling the boxcar would be, also how alone Hannigan (the main haracter) would feel in such a place. In contrast, `The Red Room’s setting is in the 19^th century in a presumably English castle called Lorraine castle. In this story, the main character moves around rather than staying in one place like in `Hobo’. The story starts in the castle housekeepers’ room, which is dark toned and old, fashioned for the period.
This gives this part of the story a dreary, old feel, which suits the old servants who care for the castle to whom the main character talks to at this point of the story. The narrator (also the main character) says that this room and the three servants within it had a strong ffect on him because `they seemed to belong to a different age’ one where witches and ghosts were believable. Being from a different, younger era, where the supernatural is starting to be doubted, he finds being in that situation weird and un-natural.
After being in the housekeepers room the story moves through corridors, which are dark and therefore have a creepy kind of feel. Some descriptions of them are `Draughty and subterranean’ and `Chilly and dusty’. The last corridor he passes through contains some bronze figures that cast eerie shadows in the moonlight and startle him at first because the hadows look like someone crouching ready to attack him. This perhaps insignificant detail helps to add atmosphere to the story. As the title suggests the most important setting of the story is that of the red room.
The red room is thought to be haunted, it is painted red and black, both very symbolic colours of blood and death, it is as the author puts it `a very sombre room’. It has many shadowy alcoves and window bays, which make the room, seem even gloomier and more sombre. The room has sconces in which to put candles and a fireplace, which the housekeeper laid ready for lighting. The room is perfectly still nd the only noises come from the crackling fire and the echoing on the stair. The main character of a story is the character you `get to know’ most, so what they feel and their emotions can affect the way you feel.
This is very useful when a writer needs to create fear because they can do it through the main character’s actions, feelings and their overall personality. Hannigan, the main character in `Hobo’ is a hobo (a tramp); he is a poor man, dirty and unshaven with old dirty clothes. Hannigan likes to drink what he calls `sneaky Pete’, alcohol of some kind, perhaps whisky; consequently, he is probably runk in the story. The fact he is drunk may account for how he manages to badly scrape his knee getting on to the train and also why he doesn’t realise that his companion is dead sooner.
Hannigan is scared but when he thinks that, another Hobo is in the boxcar with him he relaxes and shows more of his personality. The reader knows quite a lot about Hannigan so they can work out why he thinks, does or feels certain things. When the reader understands characters feelings, they affect them more than, if the author had told them barely anything about a character. Hannigan feels scared of the tramp murderer who he alls `the knife’ which is why he has `gone on the lam’, (on the run). When Robert Bloch shows Hannigan’s feelings, he creates a bond between character and reader.
This bond provokes the reader to feel (to a degree) like Hannigan does. The main character of `The Red Room’ is very different from Hannigan. He is a young middle/upper class man who is arrogant, self assured and inquisitive. You do not find out the name of the main character since he is also the narrator (H. G Wells wrote the story in the first person tense). With a main character like the one in this tory, you expect the story to be exciting; the author can use this expectation to create writing which easily creates suspense for the reader as they wait for the stories’ climax.
You can tell that H. G Wells intends this character to be well educated from the way he uses more advanced language compared to that which he uses for the other characters who are all servants. Some examples of his well-developed language skills are when he says, `systematic examination’ `tangible’ and `atavistic’. This character acts superior to the servants who are of a different, lower class and finds the fact that they are old even ore of a reason for him to be superior; he does not like the idea of old age and says that `the human qualities seem to drop from the old insensibly day by day’.
By the end of the story, he learns that he should have respected the old servants more because they knew more about `The Red Room’ than he did. Not just the main character of a story can affect reader’s feelings; the other smaller characters can be just as important in doing so. In `Hobo’ there is only two characters other than Hannigan, one of whom is another tramp. This other tramp is short and squat with a balding `bullet head’, his clothes, like those that Hannigan has are soiled and wrinkled. This tramp is actually dead, lying slumped against the wall of the boxcar right from the start of the story (Hannigan does not know this).
One reason Hannigan does not notice this may be because he is drunk, having `drunk up his stake’ (spent all his money on drink). Another more obvious reason is that it is constantly getting darker throughout the story making it difficult for even a sober person to see anything. The tramp, though dead is responsible for Hannigan relaxing. This is because the two are similar, the other tramp, in Hannigan’s mind could not be the Hobo-killing `Knife’ because he is a hobo himself. With this in mind, Hannigan talks to the tramp and seems for a while to get a response but this is only because the train jolts the body.
The other character, though never seen or physical described is the key element of fear in this story. The other character is `The knife’. Hannigan is on the run from him because he is a tramp and `the knife’ has a reputation for killing tramps. `The knife’ got his nickname from his choice of weapon for his tramp murders; he always uses a knife. The story of this murderer is very big in the papers since he has killed any people before; this has encouraged many hobos like Hannigan to go on the run. The other characters in `The Red Room’ are all servants at Lorraine castle.
There are three of them, two old men and an old woman; they appear at the beginning and end of the story. The old woman is the housekeeper of Lorraine castle, during the first section she seems unfriendly and she only speaking three times. The first time she speaks it is to explain that he still has a lot to see in his youth and that the castle is very different from anything he has ever seen. The other times she speaks are just to say `This night of all ights! ‘ the housekeeper seems slightly crazy in the way she repeats this but this seems to be mainly because she is scared.
Though she seems solitary and uncaring, she lays the fire ready for the young man showing that she actually does care. At the end, the old housekeeper acts normally and seems inquisitive to know about the ghost, maybe to dispel her fear. The first of the male servants is `the man with the withered arm’. other than the fact that he has a withered arm we know nothing about his physical appearance. This servant seems to talk the most, trying always to dissuade the young man from going to the red oom .
As a reader I also get the feeling that he does not want to be held responsible for any strange event that happens in the room. He keeps reminding the young man `it is your own choosing’. H. G Wells does not describe the housekeeper or the man with the withered arm in much detail physically, unlike the last servant to enter. `The man with the shade’ is how the author describes this servant and he is the one character in the whole story whose appearance is described in any kind of detail. H. G Wells describes him in a way that makes him sound slightly grotesque, since this is how the young man sees him.