Tension

“The worst of all things that haunt poor mortal man, said I; and that is, in all its nakedness – Fear! ” This is an example of how tension is built throughout H. G. Wells’ stories. It shows that ‘The Red Room’ is all about fear and how there is no visible ghost but his imagination is playing the part in his fear. The unknown is often more frightening than something you can see. Tension in writing is keeping the reader in suspense so they are guessing what is going to happen and sometimes the story is ended with a cliffhanger. Writers use tension to build up to the climax.

Some writers may use techniques including ellipses to create tension whereas others may use short sharp sentences. H. G. Wells was born in a poor family but his mother was a maid at a rich man’s house. He desperately wanted education but despaired of finding it (Short Stories by H. G. Wells). In 1884 he was self educated and at the age of 18 he won a scholarship to the recently founded Normal School of Science in South Kensington. He was taught by T. H. Huxley, the leading scientific thinker and writer in the country. After taking his B. Sc. egree in 1890, Wells turned to writing.

His best loved stories were ‘The Time Machine’, ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘The War of the Worlds’. He became a very rich man. In H. G. Wells’ times, there were a lot of changes in science. H. G. Wells wrote ‘The Red Room’ because Charles Darwin said that god did not create earth and we are all part of evolution. Everyone was confused and nobody knew what to believe in and were desperate to find out what the truth was. H. G. Wells made ‘The Red Room’ which is supernatural based and puts peoples faith in supernatural beliefs.

The setting in ‘The Red Room’ is calm at first because there are four people in a cosy room with the fire burning so everything is visible. It changes from calm to quite creepy. ‘The long, draughty subterranean passage was chilly and dusty, and my candle flared and made the shadows cower and quiver. The echoes rang up and down the spiral staircase, and a shadow came sweeping up after me, and one fled before me into the darkness overhead’. This quotation is tense because the passage is underground which is creepy because the underground represents coffins in a cemetery or hell.

The part of the quotation that says ‘my candle flared and made the shadows cower and quiver’ is quite scary because it’s as if the shadows are moving. ‘The echoes rang up and down the spiral staircase, and a shadow came sweeping up after me’ this part of the quotation is creepy because spiral staircases are usually in old and creepy houses and the shadow was as if it was chasing him. The writer also mentions the moonlight which adds tension because moonlight is a fake sun. The sun adds colour and warmth whereas the moonlight shows everything in black and white and the light emitted is a cold light.

With the sun, you can see all objects but with moonlight, you tend to see lots of shadows and can hardly see the object. The characters are used to add tension to ‘The Red Room’. There are three strange, old and creepy people: One with a ‘withered arm’, one with ‘pale eyes wide open’ and one who is ‘more bent, more wrinkled and more aged than the first’. The old people are labelled as ‘grotesque custodians’ which also means ugly servants. The word ‘grotesque’ makes the characters frightening because it doesn’t just mean that they are ugly, it implies that they are frighteningly ugly.

There are a lot of tension building techniques through language used in ‘The Red Room’. An example of this is ‘tangible ghost’. ‘Tangible ghost’ means a solid ghost and this builds tension because the word ‘ghost’ represents death. In other words, the words ‘tangible ghost’ conjures a vision of a solid death that you can touch and feel. Another example is, ‘It is your own choosing’. These words are repeated many times and it builds tension because the man is saying that he is not forcing anyone to do anything. It is almost like a warning or a disclaimer so he isn’t responsible if something terrible happens.

The quotation, ‘The door creaked on its hinges’, represents that the house is old. Creaking noises are considered to be quite creepy. ‘A monstrous shadow of him crouched upon the wall’, this quotation creates tension because it includes the word ‘monstrous’ which symbolises evil. ‘My candle was a little tongue of flame in its vastness’, ‘a little tongue of flame’ represents evil and hell. It is also an example of personification because usually a flame is not living but when it is written as ‘tongue of flame’, then it adds life to it i. . it makes an inanimate object into something that is an animate object like a person is living.

As well as building tension in ‘The Red Room’, H. G. Wells builds tension in many ways in ‘The Cone’. One of the ways he builds tension is through setting: ‘The night was hot and overcast, the sky red-rimmed’. The part of the quotation that says ‘the night was hot and overcast’, means that it was very cloudy which also symbolises claustrophobia for the characters. The part that says ‘the sky red-rimmed’ represents fear and blood.

Everybody knows that blood exists in all of us, but when they see blood they are frightened and tense because blood is usually connected to serious injury and death. He also builds tension through language, ‘roaring and rushing’. H. G. Wells adds tension to the story by adding alliteration but it is also onomatopoeic. He also writes ‘This country was all fresh and beautiful once… and now – it is Gehenna. ‘ he is saying that the country used to be nice and beautiful once but now it is like Gehenna which is a valley below Jerusalem, where children were sacrificed.

It was also a place where the wicked were punished after death, like hell. H. G. Wells also builds tension through his characters in ‘The Cone’ by the way the characters are described, the way they talk and act and the circumstances in which they find themselves e. g. “He does not suspect? ” said the man, a little nervously. ‘ he is acting nervously which puts the reader on edge who may also feel a little bit of that nervousness (tension). ‘The man and woman spoke to one another in low tones’. In this example, it is the manner of speaking that implies tension in the situation.

The distant sound of a roaring and rushing drew nearer and grew in volume; the house quivered… ‘ in this last example it is the circumstance or surroundings in which the characters find themselves that creates the tension i. e. A house that’s quivering. The last story I am going to be analysing is ‘The Stolen Bacillus’. The writer adds tension to this story by setting it in a laboratory which makes it tense as the reader imagines a laboratory to be full of mysterious bottles, potions, pipes and flasks, some of which may contain germs and other hazardous chemicals which if released could be very dangerous.

The setting then changes from the laboratory to the outside and one of these test tubes has been take from the laboratory to the outside world by a sinister sounding man with the potential to use the contents of the tube on innocent people. Characters are also used to build tension in ‘The Stolen Bacillus’. An example of a character is the man who ‘held a limp white hand over his disengaged eye’. This character builds tension because villains tend to have imperfections such as a scar, or in this case, a limp white hand. ‘Ah! now I see,’ said the visitor. ‘Not so very much to see after all.

Little streaks and shreds of pink. And yet those little particles, those mere atomies, might multiply and devastate a city! Wonderful! ‘. In this case, its not how he looks but the what he is saying and the manner in which he is saying it which creates the tension. As before, the language used can create tension as in following example: ‘It’s a deadly thing to have in your possession,’ he said, devouring the little tube with his eyes’. Something that the character has said, he has described in a graphic way. ‘… and death – mysterious, untraceable death, death swift and terrible, death full of pain and indignity… is another example of this because he describes death repeatedly in different ways in quick succession.

Conclusion H. G. Wells creates tension throughout the three stories by adding strange characters and minor details to the setting such as moonlight. He also adds tension by including deaths and using adjectives. He includes a chase in ‘The Stolen Bacillus’ and he uses descriptive sentences. In my personal view I prefer ‘The Red Room’ because I believe ‘The Red Room’ creates the most tension out of the three stories. My least favourite was ‘The Stolen Bacillus’ as it wasn’t as exciting.