The Red Room
Versions of Reality Theme
One of the primary sources of the fear that overwhelms the narrator of "The Red Room" is his active imagination. Alone in the red room, he certainly begins to see "suggestive" things around him. The narrator claims he doesn’t believe in ghosts or spirits; but his rational intellect is clearly no obstacle to his imagination. The old custodians he meets appear spectral and sinister, he hears and sees mysterious things in the dark, and the shadows around him seem to come alive. At some points, it even starts to look as if he no longer knows exactly what he’s seeing. At the end, we’re left wondering how much of what he actually perceived in the story was real, and how much was imagined. Or is it too hard to tell the difference?
Questions About Versions of Reality
- Does the narrator’s imagination seem overactive, or is it understandable in the circumstances in which he finds himself? Why?
- How much of the creepiness of the castle is due to the narrator’s imagination, and how much is "real"?
- Is the narrator a reliable narrator? In other words, can his accounts of his experiences be trusted? Why or why not?
Chew on This
The narrator’s imagination is overactive, and this makes him particularly susceptible to fear.
The narrator is not a reliable source of information.