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The Red Room

The Red Room


by H.G. Wells

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Overcoming the Monster

Anticipation Stage and "Call"

The narrator confidently announces he intends to stay in the red room to the old custodians; he is unfazed by their warnings.

By the beginning of the story, the narrator has already been "called." He’s made up his mind to spend the night in the red room, to prove it’s not haunted. The "monster" has also been identified as whatever haunts the red room. In this initial stage, we learn a bit more about his intentions and receive the warnings from the older people that he might get more than he bargained for in the red room. The narrator also receives instructions to the fateful spot from the man with the withered arm.

Dream Stage

The narrator makes his way to the red room, explores it, and makes himself at home as best he can.

Although the narrator becomes uneasy almost immediately after leaving the custodians’ room, things appear to go well at first. He gets to the red room without much trouble; he is able to control those small flare-ups of fear he has (with the Ganymede statue, for instance). Once in the room, he’s unnerved by its creepiness and suggestive shadows, but is able to comfort himself by lighting the candles. There is no real sign of a monster at all.

Frustration Stage

The first candle goes out in the dark alcove; more follow in its footsteps.

From the start, the alcove has been the most sinister part of the red room. After all, it is the farthest from the light of the fire. So it makes sense that the first bit of funny business should happen in the alcove: a candle goes out, which is the first sign there might be a ghost. Then things become strange as "the monster" shows its face. From this point on, the narrator’s comfort is gone, and he’s locked in conflict with whatever it is that’s putting out the candles. All the while he’s losing control of himself. The real monster – Fear – has arrived in full force, coinciding with whatever it was that put out the candle (a draft? maybe really a ghost?).

Nightmare Stage

The fire goes out and the room goes black.

When the fire goes out and there is no light left in the room, the monster is at the height of its power. The darkness drives the narrator out of his mind with fear: he screams three times and makes a run for the door, crashing into all kinds of things. It’s not clear if he’ll escape. Then it all goes black. Admittedly, it’s a brief nightmare stage.

The Thrilling Escape from Death and Death of the Monster

The narrator wakes up and reveals the identity of what haunts the red room.

We don’t see a "thrilling escape" because the narrator’s brief escape attempt ends as he loses consciousness. Fear "got" him. But our narrator does escape in a sense: he makes it through in one piece and is able to wake up the next morning outside of the red room. (That's better than we can say about the duke, who didn't make it out alive.) The narrator's "escape" mostly is due to the fact that the older people seem to be responsible for his survival. The monster doesn’t "die" either, as the last remarks from the man with the shade reveal. The monster, a.k.a. fear, will be there until the house falls. Nonetheless, the narrator reveals the identity of the monster, and escapes with his life, even if he technically loses to the monster.

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