In this essay I will be writing about knowing and not knowing humor and irony in each of the short stories I have chosen. I have decided to write about The Red Room, The Stolen Bacillus and The Inexperienced Ghost.
H.G Wells was a typical Victorian rich man. You can tell by the language he uses, as only people who were rich or from the middle and upper classes in those days could afford an education.The Red Room was written quite early in H.
G Wells' career as a writer. You can tell this because of the simple structure of the story. In The Red Room the pattern of tension is a simple straight line and is never broken. Ghost stories were very popular in Victorian times and they loved anything with a ghostly theme, so this made up for the lack of tension.The simplicity of the tension also makes the story very foreseeable and predictable, so it is easy for the reader to know where the story is going.
To make up for this, H.G Wells entertains the reader with something that people would might not have expected in a ghost story; humor and irony, which gives it a totally different dimension compared to other ghost stories. It also entertains and grips the reader much more.The story is in the first person.
The narrator talks as if he was there when it happened. The main character in this story is very snobbish and pompous, and because of this he talks down to the people in the castle as he believes they are beneath him. He is a a typical upper class Victorian of his age. The character is much like modern T.
V or film characters like Agatha Christie's Inspector Poirot etc. Wells uses Gothic imagery to keep the reader interested and hooked throughout the story.He investigates the supernatural, even though he does not believe in such things as ghosts. This is because when Victorian boys were little they were taught by their fathers that men were not allowed to express or admit their fear, as this will show weakness. Even though he is not allowed to express this, it is important that the narrator conveys the character's feelings, as this sets the scene and makes the reader feel his fear too.An example of where he shows that he does not believe in the supernatural is when he said to the old people "You will show me to this haunted room of yours, I will make myself comfortable there.
" He is sarcastic and it's like he does not care that there is a possibility of it being haunted; there is also a grim dark, humour in his overconfidence. He does not believe them even though they are standing round the fire to supposedly ward off evil spirits; this shows some of Wells' irony.Wells' choice of narrator creates a problem for him as a ghost story writer. He does not make it easy for himself to convey to the reader how the narrator feels, so Wells lets the reader know how frightened the narrator is by describing his actions instead. "I stood rigid for half a minute perhaps. Then, with my hand in the pocket that held my revolver, I advanced.
" This is very humorous because the reader knows he is petrified, but he won't admit that he is. He is the personification of fear although but he doesn't know it, and also keeps reassuring himself all the time that he isn't.Later on in the story when he is in the 'haunted' room, yet again he tries to hide the fact that he is scared when the candles are going out. He starts singing nursery rhymes and talking to himself, which is not the sort of thing a person does, unless they are scared witless, so this also adds humor. But even though the reader knows he is terrified, the narrator still tries to persuade the reader that he is calm.
"Did I do that in a flash of absentmindedness?" He acts like everything is normal. The language he uses is verbose and sounds affected, like he is just putting it on to hide his fear. He also feels more safe with the candles, he puts them in every corner of the room to shield himself from the misleading darkness.The most humorous part of the story is when he fundamentally gives up his sanity - he starts seeing things that are not there and noises that no one else can hear. Aghast, he screams three times, runs around the room and knocks himself out. This final enterprise is ironically humorous as it goes against everything the man believes in, as he let out and showed all his terror.
And what is also ironic is that the elderly people he was mocking in the beginning of the story are now tending to his injuries, so after his experience he appreciates them more.The impression the narrator thinks he is making on the reader is much different then the impression he is actually having on the reader. The narrator assumes the reader is thinking he is a very well educated man and afraid of nothing. But the reader thinks the total opposite, that he is very foolish and has a very high regard for himself.
After his episode he walks away a wiser man, but the ironic twist is that the readers still do not know what made the candles go out.The Stolen Bacillus is a little bit more complex by comparison. H.G Wells uses the third person narrative in this story.There is no tension at the beginning of The Stolen Bacillus, but then it goes up and down through the story. It is very unpredictable compared with The Red Room which has a very steady pattern of tension.
The tension goes highest at the point when the terrorist gets away and drinks the liquid.The visitor is presented as a stereotypical untrustworthy character, also everything he says points towards him being an Anarchist. He is a very sly, shifty character, "Pale man"..
"Limp white hands"......
."Lank black hair and deep grey eyes." so by this description we get the impression there is something odd about him. The scientist can't tell what the stranger is thinking but the reader can; this adds humour throughout the story.
Wells misleads the reader right at the beginning of this story by making the Bacteriologist pretend that he doesn't know the man is a terrorist. Wells makes us believe that we know more than the Bacteriologist, but the trick is we don't. He fools the reader and the terrorist by making them think it's cholera in the test tube, so when he tells us this, we believe it. So all the humour and irony turns on the reader and the terrorist.
"The bacterium I was telling you of ....
and I think cause, the blue patches on various monkeys....
And now he has swallowed it."The terrorist steals the tube thinking it is cholera and he drinks it, but instead of getting the disease he will turn bright blue, this is very ironic and humorous. What is also amusing is that the terrorist is stealing the test tube only because of the fact that he wants to get vengeance on all the people who were cruel to him in the past. In addition the Bacteriologist shouts out, when he realises the test tube is gone, "Blue ruin!" The reader naturally thinks he is cursing, but blue ruin is actually the name of the liquid.
So again the Bacteriologist tricks us because he gives us a clue but we don't recognize it as one.The Cockney voices of the cabman and others, who are chasing after the terrorist, also adds humour to the story. Another ironic point in the story is that the Bacteriologist's wife is called Mini, and she has a habit of petty nagging. So in a way her name reflects her personality.The Inexperienced Ghost was was written later in H.
G Wells' writing career. He had to make it much more sophisticated and modern to make the people of that time more interested, as they were much more demanding. It shows in this story, as the structure is much more complex and unpredictable. The pattern of tension is not what you would expect of a ghost story as it is not scary, and it loses its tension throughout.This story is written in the first person. There are two narrators as there is a story within a story.
H.G Wells teases and confuses the reader about Clayton, by conveying to the reader that he is a liar and the reader subconsciously believes this. It starts very unusually, "When Clayton began to tell one, we naturally supposed he was lying" and also refers to "the incurable artifice of the man". Normally in a story you have to be made to believe that it is true, but in this case you are told that the whole thing is a lie.
Normally you are not put off from a story before you have even started reading it and are not made to think it is not worth reading, but in this case you are, so this is very ironic. But Clayton still has a skill of being able to make you believe the story; also the layers of detail in the story make it very credible.When Clayton starts the story he tells it as if it is a normal thing, meeting a Ghost. He tells it "With a matter-of-fact anecdote", so the reader naturally believes he is telling the truth. He doesn't try to make the tale like an everyday ghost story by making it sound dramatic; it is definitely what you wouldn't expect it to be. Then, as soon as Clayton has the reader believing him, you begin to doubt him because he starts to forget he is telling a ghost story and makes it humorous.
For example, when he is saying how much he'd had to drink just before he met the ghost, "I'd had a bottle of champagne, and being all alone, perhaps two or three--perhaps even four or five--whiskies" this is absurd because after drinking that anyone would be very drunk, so then you start thinking that he was just hallucinating.H.G Wells plays with the reader's perception by making them believe, then making them doubt the story again and again. When Wells has the reader believing it is true, he puts this into the story, " He turned.
..spread his hands in approved ghost fashion..
.emitted a faint, drowned out, "Boo." So he adds humour into a ghost story so you think that Clayton is lying again. This makes the reader never sure of the truth. When Clayton first sees the ghost he sums him up by what he is wearing, scruffy clothes, so because he is of a higher class he treats him like he is of lower importance.
He also questions him for not being a member of the club and does not even care that he is a ghost, which is ridiculous.We start to feel sorry for the ghost because he is not good at his job; he is "inexperienced". Also the way the ghost died is very humorous, as he died investigating a gas leak while he was holding a candle. Clayton mocks him because of this, and the reader knows this is a very silly thing to do. Wells shows Clayton's confidence because it makes the character more amusing, "I'm not joking.
I mean what I say". He has no doubts, he keeps on smiling and this makes the reader's think they know what is going to happen. Even in the end he is still smiling which adds a further ironic element to the story.When they all find out about the hand symbols/gestures, different sides are taken; some believe and some don't. This is when the clock strikes midnight (so the atmosphere is set), Clayton was totally oblivious that he would drop down dead.
To pass from the living world to the world of spirits you have to be a ghost, therefore you have to be dead. This makes it ironically humorous because you don't know how its going to end until you read the very last sentence.H.G Wells makes his stories different and more exciting by injecting humour and irony into them. That is why when you read his stories you get interested and hooked and want to read more.