The Red Room is a significant scene in the novel I’m the King of the Castle due to the many themes and issues that are prominent throughout the entire novel are manifested in this scene in two main ways: symbolism and descriptions. The author uses these to highlight the main themes of the novel, among them Hooper’s power over Kingshaw, as well as Kingshaw’s own insecurities and deep fears. So far, Hooper has shown to be more powerful than Kingshaw in many ways, and we have been given only hints about Kingshaw’s weakness. However, in this essay, I’m going to show examples that reflect the huge significance of the Red Room scene in the novel regarding its issues and themes.
In the extract from chapter 2, Hooper shows power over Kingshaw when he says about his superiority over death, or dead things. For example, on pg. 40 “Yes, but you can’t touch them can you. You’ve got to touch them.” This shows how Hooper has power over Kingshaw as he lacks his fear of touching dead things. I think that this reflects Hooper’s desire to gain power from Kingshaw through his fear in a very effective way, as he states his inability to touch the dead moths, and Hooper does this to transmit to Kingshaw a sense of nervousness and powerlessness. This also links when Hooper says to Kingshaw on pg. 40: “Why not? Scaredy-baby, scared of a moth!” This shows Hooper asserting his dominance over Kingshaw by mockingly stating his fear. I think that this quote shows one of the few moments in the whole novel where Hooper loses his usual calm and deadly state, in which he is when he torments Kingshaw most of the time. Also, by rhetorically asking him: “Why not?” Its obvious that he has discovered another one of his weaknesses, and is eager to exploit it and prove his power and dominance over him.
Kingshaw shows his insecurity by, as stated before, his fear. For example, on pg. 41: “He was ashamed of being so afraid, and he could not help it, he only wanted to get out, to stop having to see the terrible moths.” This shows Kingshaw’s fear taking over his senses, therefore disabling him to act and to think properly; therefore he can’t beat Hooper on their power struggle. I think that Kingshaw’s fear of moths completely puts him in a powerless position, clearly showing Hooper how he can torment Kingshaw in the future. Another example of Kingshaw’s insecurities can be found in pg. 42: “I ought not to be a baby.” This shows how much Kingshaw yearns for emotional maturity and frustration on his inability to achieve this. I think that due to Kingshaw’s many traumas and fears, (that have haunted him almost all his life) his self-esteem is too low for him to actually muster enough confidence in himself.
Symbolism in the extract plays a big part in showing us the deeper meanings of 2 things: The keys to the Red Room and the dead moths locked inside it. Throughout the scene, the author uses symbolism of the moths to portray many emotions and themes, like death, decay and fear. For example: “ Moths.” This shows just how deep Kingshaw’s hatred and fear of moths actually is, symbolizing Kingshaw’s phobia. I think that the punctuation used by the author further reinforces this, as putting the single word; ‘Moths’ as a full sentence and at the end of the paragraph really shows Kingshaw’s fear. Another example is when the author shows how the moths affected him not only emotionally, but even to the point of a physical reaction: “The skin prickled across the back of his neck”. This demonstrates how deep Kingshaw’s fear actually goes, even to the point of not being able to control his own body’s reaction to it. Finally, there is actually a quote that precisely refers to the roots of his phobia: “ Since he was very young, he had been terrified of moths.”
As I stated before, there is also symbolism for the keys Hooper has that open the Red Room. One example on pg. 39 is when Hooper is holding the keys of the red room: “I’ve got the key now.” This reflects the power Hooper holds, as he has the ability to open the door, therefore “choosing” to let Kingshaw in, having complete control. I think the keys also symbolize the fact that Hooper is trapping Kingshaw in, as the keys also have the power to lock Kingshaw in, therefore submitting him to confinement.
Descriptions of the weather outside the Red Room have great impact on the way Kingshaw is feeling throughout the whole scene. For example, on pg. 41: “The rain was driving across the lawn now, into the yew trees, battering against a window”. This shows how fierce the weather is outside (considering its night time when the scene takes place) and how a storm is brewing outside, just as Kingshaw’s own paranoia is starting to stir inside him. Another example is on pg. 42: “he could see the shadows of the yew trees, tossing in the wind. He thought suddenly of the figures of men, hiding out there, watching him, lying in wait.” This reflects on how the weather getting increasingly worse and menacing (‘shadows of the yew trees tossing in the wind’) has a great impact on Kingshaw’s senses and fear up to the point his own mind is starting to get the better of him.
Finally, the author uses descriptions of the room itself also create pretty much the same effect as descriptions of the weather outside. For example, on pg. 41: “the windows were bolted” This suggests how the windows of the room are locked tight, so locked in fact that they cannot be opened without help. This helplessness resembles the one that Kingshaw feels right then, as there is no escape from the Red Room. Another example on pg. 41 is: “ The window-ledges were filthy” this can also be linked to the example above, as the filth of the room shows its lack of proper care and abandonment. I think that the author has used these descriptions to reflect Kingshaw’s current mental state with the overall setup of the room.
In conclusion, I think that the scene in chapter 2 is absolutely crucial to our understanding of the novel for all the themes that transpire in it which practically are the essence of the whole book. And in my opinion, Hooper’s dominance over Kingshaw plus his many insecurities that all come to light in this very scene. By symbolism, pathetic fallacy and descriptions of both the state of the atmosphere both outside Kingshaw (the Red room itself) and inside Kingshaw’s own mind the author describes every detail about not only major themes (as mentioned above) but of Kingshaw’s deeper issues which are key to understanding his character.