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Don’t be fooled! ‘The Red Room’ by H.G. Wells may seem like a simple short story. However, it is difficult to understand the story’s true meaning without reviewing its symbols.

Let’s look deeper at this deceptive work!

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It’s Not that Simple

Have you ever encountered a twist at the end of a story that made you reevaluate everything you just read? ”The Red Room” by H.G. Wells seems very straightforward on the surface. It’s very easy to miss its depth and meaning. You may read the story all the way through and think it’s nothing more than a campfire ghost story.

However, the dialogue in the last few lines of the story doesn’t quite sync with the rest of the tale. It seems a bit dramatic for a story about a man who gets scared of the dark and accidentally knocks himself unconscious.At the end, the narrator tells the caretakers that the Red Room is haunted by fear. Why fear? Why not just say he was scared of the dark? Furthermore, one of the caretakers calls fear a ”Power of Darkness,” and ”a curse upon this world!” He concludes, ”Fear is in that room. Black Fear;. And there it will be; so long as this house of sin endures.” What is the caretaker talking about? How has the world been cursed? What is the ”house of sin” that he mentions?These passages indicate that there is more to ”The Red Room” than we see on the surface and that this text warrants further examination.

To understand ”The Red Room,” we must first understand its symbols. Symbols are elements of a story that are meant to represent something else.

Symbolism: Darkness and Light

Did you notice that the narrator seems afraid at night, but the opposite during the day? In ”The Red Room,” darkness is actually a symbol for fear. Wells establishes that darkness is a menacing presence through the use of imagery, or vivid visual descriptions. These are often created through personification, or the attribution of human-like qualities to non-human things. Let’s take a look at a few examples.


Darkness is described through personification.
Darkness is described through personification.


Whenever the narrator is afraid, there is usually a description of darkness. He initially feels uneasy around the caretakers, and describes one as having ”a monstrous shadow .

. . crouched upon the wall.” As the narrator makes his way through the spooky corridor to the Red Room, his tension and fear begin to grow. So do the descriptions of darkness. A shadow on the tunnel wall seemed like ”one crouching to waylay me.

” Since darkness does not have a physical form in which it can ”crouch,” and because darkness does not have the consciousness to plot to attack someone, these uses of personification make it seem more menacing. The darkness is described as a ”a lurking living thing,” and we believe it due to the use of personification.On the other hand, light is used to show protection and courage; the narrator feels safe in its presence.

Light has power over the darkness. The narrator states that his candles make the shadows ”cower and quiver.” The brighter the setting is, the safer he feels. When he fills the Red Room with candles, he finds the light ”cheering and reassuring.” When the narrator awakens in the daylight, the feeling of fear vanishes. The light immediately establishes safety, which results in a more relaxed mood. Even the narrator’s attitude towards the caretakers changes, and he cannot understand why he thought they were so dreadful the night before.


Light is a symbol for protection and courage.
Light is a symbol for protection and courage.


The Red Room

Knowing that darkness represents fear explains the narrator’s claim that the Red Room was haunted by fear. But what about the caretaker’s comments about fear remaining ”so long as this house of sin endures?”It’s important to recognize that the whole castle wasn’t said to be haunted – just the Red Room. And it’s in the Red Room where we see the battle between darkness and light.

The room is large and cavernous, and the narrator notes, ”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 . . . Sentinel shadows and watching darknesses beyond its island of light.

” Darkness consumes the narrator when all of the lights are extinguished. Remembering that darkness is a symbol of fear, it could be said that fear completely overcame courage as the narrator fell into a panic.

Darkness overcomes light when all of the candles are extinguished.
candle


The Red Room is a symbol for our heart. Both are red and filled with chambers. Just as the Red Room can be filled with both light and darkness, our hearts can be filled with the same.

Christian tradition teaches that humans are cursed to be inherently sinful and tempted by evil. When the caretaker talks about the ”house of sin,” he is referring to the house that holds the Red Room – our bodies. He acknowledges that the struggle between light and dark will last as long we do (i.e., our entire lives).

Lesson Summary

Symbols are important in understanding the message of ”The Red Room” by H.

G. Wells. Symbols are elements of a story that represent something else.

Fear is symbolized by darkness in this story, and light symbolizes courage or protection. The darker the setting, the more fearful the narrator is. On the other hand, the brighter it is, the safer he feels. Darkness is shown to be a menacing force through vivid visual descriptions, or imagery.

Wells also uses personification to give the darkness recognizable human qualities. The story is filled with numerous examples of the power struggle between darkness and light. As the candles go out and the darkness takes over the Red Room, the narrator’s own fear takes over. The dialogue at the end of the story establishes that the Red Room is a symbol for our human heart, in which there is an eternal struggle between darkness and light.

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