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Gothic Fiction is a Genre of Literature That Combines Elements of Both Horror and Romance

Gothic Fiction is a Genre of Literature That Combines Elements of Both Horror and Romance

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Published by: Incze Andrea on Sep 05, 2011
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Contents………………………………………………………...1 Introduction…………………………………………………… 2 Gothic tradition, Fiction and Victorian Gothic………………3 Gothic elements............................................................................4 Edgar Allan Poe………………………………………………...8 The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat……………………..10 William Wilson………………………………………………...13 The Fall of the House of Usher……………………………….15 The Cask of Amontillado……………………………………..16 Bibliography…………………………………………………...17


” (Edgar Allan Poe) The antecedents of choosing this particular topic go back far in the past. The paper also contains informations about Poe’s life and career. revealing recurring elements and components of this genre.” ” I would define. Both “gothic” and “horror” have taken interesting forms during the years.Introduction ”Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. step by step getting closer to some of Poe’s most famous gothic novels. others find it beautiful and transcendent. The first time I came into contact with Edgar Allan Poe at the Hungarian class. That novel drew my attention to Poe’s literature and due to it I bought my first book in English: “Spirits of The Death: Tales and Poems”. by Edgar Allan Poe. but as I continued to dig myself in into Poe’s world I realized that it is not that kind of horror that I was used to. In this paper I wanted to put in spotlight the gothic genre and Poe’s writings related to it. in brief. and while some may find the movement disturbing and horrific. when we learned about Poe’s “The Masque of The Red Death”. Firstly I will present the gothic tradition and fiction. At first it seemed hard to understand the language and also to read between the lines. Both genres have evolved entire spectacular cultures of their own. The gothic movement has come into a new existence in today’s society. the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty. 2 .

unfamiliar. The point was to remove the reader from the ordinary. This novel set the standard for all other gothic novels to follow. terror. The Gothic world is the fallen world. Storytelling throughout the ages has served two important functions: to create a communal. with his 1764 novel: The Castle of Otranto. As a genre it is generally believed to be invented by the English author Horace Walpole. Gothic fiction contains the tradition in a literary form. old. emotional experience in the listeners and to impart strong moral lessons in an entertaining format. partly what Virginia Woolf called “the strange human need for feeling afraid”. was (and still is) seen by some critics as a sub-genre of Romanticism. The gothic novel. Gothic art and architecture was intended to have a magical or preternatural effect on the viewer. living in fear and alienation.Gothic tradition. mysterious was the perfect setting for a story intended to terrify or otherwise overwhelm the reader. stumbling alone. obliged to find their own solutions or go under. How did this literary form come to be called “Gothic”? The connection is in the emphasis on emotion. Fiction and Victorian Gothic Gothic fiction is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. distinctive for its fascination with the horrible. Gothic heroes and heroines are on their own. The Monk by Matthews Lewis and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. 3 . in combination with many of the characteristics of the Romantic novel. the vision of fallen man. Psychologically the gothic novel is generally understood to serve a fundamental human need. the grotesque and the supernatural. The Gothic building. vulnerability. the repellent. evoking a sense of awe. Other canonical texts include Vathek by William Beckford. everyday world of the normal and the familiar.

or confusing. which lend their own haunting flavor with their branchings. (Again. A character may have a disturbing dream vision. Omens. The work is pervaded by a threatening feeling. visions. claustrophobia. trap doors. it may portend his death. the setting might be in an old house or mansion--or even a new house--where unusual camera angles. This might be thought of as an "imitation vision. The castle often contains secret passages. partial. amazing events occur. Dramatic. For example. Elements 3. The castle may be near or connected to caves." 4. sustained close ups during movement. The action takes place in and around an old castle. or some other inexplicable event. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events. Often the plot itself is built around a mystery. this may amount to merely a legend: "It's said that the ghost of old man Krebs still wanders these halls. if the statue of the lord of the manor falls over." 5. and 5 below contribute to this atmosphere. Setting in a castle. portents.Gothic elements A gothic novel can be identified by knowing the elements which it consists of: 1. sometimes occupied. 4. in modern filmmaking. "What could it mean?" In more watered down modern examples. or some phenomenon may be seen as a portent of coming events. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense.) 2. the inexplicable events are often murders. while in others the events are truly supernatural. In modern fiction. and mystery. An ancient prophecy is connected with the castle or its inhabitants (either former or present). secret rooms. a fear enhanced by the unknown. sometimes seemingly abandoned. and darkness or shadows create the same sense of claustrophobia and entrapment. the events are ultimately given a natural explanation. In some works. The prophecy is usually obscure. and possibly ruined sections. such as ghosts or giants walking. such as unknown parentage. (Translated into modern filmmaking. a disappearance. dark or hidden staircases. a character might see something (a shadowy figure stabbing another shadowy figure) and think that it was a dream.) 3. 4 . or inanimate objects (such as a suit of armor or painting) coming to life.

The women suffer all the more because they are often abandoned. A lonely. The metonymy of gloom and horror. or commit a crime. eerie sounds clanking chains gusts of wind blowing out lights doors suddenly slamming shut baying of distant dogs (or wolves?) crazed laughter 10. to demand that one or more of the female characters do something intolerable. howls. and/or sobbing. In the filmed gothic. and the characters are often overcome by anger. Crying and emotional speeches are frequent. Metonymy is a subtype of metaphor. The woman may be commanded to marry someone she does not love (it may even be the powerful male himself). lord of the manor. danger. the female characters often face events that leave them fainting. especially blowing sighs. especially howling doors grating on rusty hinges footsteps approaching lights in abandoned rooms characters trapped in a room ruins of buildings thunder and lightning rain. screaming. screaming is common. 8. pensive. Note that the following metonymies for "doom and gloom" all suggest some element of mystery. even overwrought emotion. The constant use of the appropriate vocabulary set creates the atmosphere of the gothic. father. the film industry likes to use metonymy as a quick shorthand. As an appeal to the pathos and sympathy of the reader. or the supernatural. left alone (either on purpose or by accident). and especially. wind. 9. tyrannical male. Characters suffer from raw nerves and a feeling of impending doom. impulsive. The narration may be highly sentimental.6. One or more male characters has the power. in which something (like rain) is used to stand for something else (like sorrow). so her sufferings are even more pronounced and the focus of attention. terror. surprise. and oppressed heroine is often the central figure of the novel. 5 . so we often notice that it is raining in funeral scenes. The vocabulary of the gothic. moans. Women in distress. terrified. or guardian. 7. For example. and have no protector at times. as king. Women threatened by a powerful. High. sorrow. Breathlessness and panic are common.

despair. staring. infernal. amazement. ghost. angrily. talisman. miserable. enchantment. provoked. 2. often sudden. many gothic novels contain elements of romance as well. Sorrow dismay. breathless. sympathy. or apprehensive. impatiently. tremendous. wrath. necromancer. horror. ominous. thunderstruck. affliction. Someone loves in vain (at least temporarily). anguish. secret. fury. goblins. prodigy. wrathfully enormous. astonishment. enraged. apprehensions. surprised. the love may be returned. giant. strangeness. Later. sorcerer. fearing. scared. dreading. astonished. terrified. hastened. hastily. incense. terror. frantic. miracle. terrible. unhappy. Terror. panic. sadly. Many times this love is the first the character has felt with this overwhelming power. impatient. resentment. incensed. 6 . Heart stirring.Mystery diabolical. magician. sudden. agony. Powerful love. dismal. commiseration. surprise. fright. sorrow. temper. grief. rage. wonder anxious. dreaded. impetuosity. flight. mournfully. wretched Surprise Haste alarm. lamentable. emotions create a life or death commitment. spirits. suddenly anger. Uncertainty of reciprocation. raving. portent. preternatural. dread. hopeless. melancholy. running. concern. spectre. precipitately. vision Fear. gigantic. afflicted. omens. vast Anger Largeness Elements of Romance In addition to the standard gothic machinery above. haunted. horrid. choler. large. frightened. prophecy. frantic. wrathful. magic. furious. What is the beloved thinking? Is the lover's love returned or not? 3. Unreturned love. Elements of romance include these: 1. impatience. shocking. shrieks. tears.

Illicit love or lust threatens the virtuous one. 7. Most often. or choice. Some obstacle arises and separates the lovers. Lovers parted. 5. locked in a dungeon. 6. Rival lovers or multiple suitors. Tension between true love and father's control. disapproval. One of the lovers is banished. disappears without explanation. forced to flee. The young woman becomes a target of some evil man's desires and schemes. One of the lovers (or even both) can have more than one person vying for affection. an explanation may be given (by the person opposing the lovers' being together) that later turns out to be false. Or. the father of the woman disapproves of the man she loves. geographically or in some other way. arrested. or sometimes. 7 .4.

and is considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Poe switched his focus to prose and spent the next several years working for literary journals and periodicals. drugs. Genres Poe's best known fiction works are Gothic. He began planning to produce his own journal. his parents died when he was young. Poe and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature. music. Poe published his poem "The Raven" to instant success. He was the first wellknown American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone. brain congestion. His most recurring themes deal with questions of death. but they never formally adopted him. his 13-year-old cousin. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. 1809 – October 7. Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827). Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre. Massachusetts. the cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol. becoming known for his own style of literary criticism. 8 . His work forced him to move between several cities. poet. A number of his homes are dedicated museums today. Poe died in Baltimore. he married Virginia Clemm. including Baltimore. heart disease. a genre he followed to appease the public taste. Poe's publishing career began humbly. Poe and his works influenced literature in the United States and around the world. such as cosmology and cryptography. He was born as Edgar Poe in Boston. and New York City. On October 7. of Richmond. credited only to "a Bostonian".Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe (January 19. Poe parted ways with the Allans. as well as in specialized fields. cholera. though he died before it could be produced. His wife died of tuberculosis two years later. rabies. In January 1845. Virginia. with an anonymous collection of poems. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. suicide. editor and literary critic. and other agents. and television. 1849) was an American writer. films. at age 40. tuberculosis. Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan. 1849. In Baltimore in 1835. After spending a short period at the University of Virginia and briefly attempting a military career. Philadelphia. The Penn (later renamed The Stylus).

he used irony and ludicrous extravagance. lapsing into "obscurity for obscurity's sake" or "mysticism for mysticism's sake. the reanimation of the dead. which Poe strongly disliked. and hoaxes. concerns of premature burial. and mourning." Beyond horror. a literary reaction to transcendentalism. In fact. Poe wrote much of his work using themes specifically catered for mass market tastes. was originally intended as a burlesque satirizing the popular genre. the effects of decomposition. responding in his writing to emerging technologies such as hot air balloons in "The Balloon-Hoax". the first story that Poe is known to have published. and his first foray into horror. To that end. his fiction often included elements of popular pseudosciences such as phrenology and physiognomy. For comic effect. often in an attempt to liberate the reader from cultural conformity. 9 . "Metzengerstein". humor tales.including its physical signs. Many of his works are generally considered part of the dark romanticism genre. Poe also reinvented science fiction. He referred to followers of the movement as "Frogpondians" after the pond on Boston Common and ridiculed their writings as "metaphor-run". Poe also wrote satires.

Its narration is retrospective but unlocated. This is accomplished after seven nights of creeping into the man’s room in order to see if the offending eye is open.The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat The analyses of two tales and their comparison can offer a good basis to talk about Gothic elements. It is only on the eight night that the old man opens his eyes and the crime is committed. by the narrator. he confesses to the crime. with madness. are told with clarity. The story starts in medias res. The same night he dismembers the body and hides it beneath the floorboards of the man’s room. the circumstances of the confession of this crime are never described. and with troubled human relationships all appear in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Firstly I would like to analyze the two tales separately. with a film over it”. The two short stories that I have chosen by Edgar Allan Poe are The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat. Poe’s preoccupation with death. who is never named or described fully. “True!” is an admission of his guilt. who is also never identified. The sequence of events is simple: the narrator is disturbed by the eye of an old man. in the middle of an event. These two stories in particular have many things in common related to technique. The story is driven not by the narrator’s insistence upon his innocence but by insistence of his sanity. Soon after. In rage and desperation. At this point the narrative abruptly ends. a clarity which obscures the meaning of the act and questions the emotional stability of the unnamed narrator. The plot of the story concerns the “murder aforethought” of an old man. only after then compare them. Although the narrator takes pride in his calm comportment toward the officers as they stand above the hiding spot. convinced that the police officers also hear the noise. he discerns a noise that he identifies as the heartbeat of the man. but they do have some significant differences. The first word of the story. he complains that “one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture-a pale blue eye. This reticence is typical for the gothic stories and helps in creating the atmosphere. The narrator decides to rid himself of this eye by killing the old man. three police officers arrive. which form the center of the story. The murder of the old man and its consequence. This is self-destructive because in attempting to prove his sanity he admits he is guilty 10 .

mentioning differences and similarities too. The story’s final scene is a result of the narrator’s feelings of guilt. in “The Tell-Tale Heart” the reader knows the ending at the very beginning of the tale. He claims: “Object there was none. The focus of the story is the perverse scheme to commit the perfect crime. leading him to murder his wife. a perfect gothic setting. which continually punishes the narrator because of his actions. such as setting. The relationship between the old man and the narrator is ambiguous. The story takes place in a house burned to the ground. he says “the idea of murder haunted me day and night”. evident in Poe’s “The Black Cat”. Despite this.of murder. Poe has used the Gothic genre to convey one of his main purposes of exploring superstitious beliefs and omens. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” the main character’s anger is placed on the 11 . his nerves dictate his true nature. The dark environment convinces the reader that the narrator is insane as well as his actions and sense of accomplishment. Like many characters in the gothic tradition. Plays an important role: to establish Poe’s idea of creating a dark. Po’s narrator suffers from the devilish effects of alcoholism. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events are also elements of the Gothic novel. the two tales can be compared. this means that he lacked motivation. a dark tavern and a cellar. Passion there was none”. The cellar is dark. Poe has written a highly Gothic tale. This complete loss of sense and control is often used in Gothic novels. The first cat was named Pluto. gloomy. Using the analyses written. more irritable”. The setting is another important Gothic convention. a long suffering wife who is eventually destroyed by the husband. at the end. The title is symbolic itself as a black cat often carries the superstitious belief that they are evil and symbolize death. The use of symbols and omens in this novel is unique to the Gothic genre. Trough his symbolic character of the black cat. Both cats in the short-story are symbols of punishment for the narrator. omens and symbols. Trough the use of Gothic devices. This atmosphere makes the reader feel scared. highly gothic novel. Only when the eye is finally found open the murder is carried out. The eye may represent secrecy. When he became addicted to alcohol he became “moody. an allusion to the god of the dead and ruler of the underworld in Roman mythology. In “The Black Cat” the reader finds out the ending of the story in the traditional format. The narrator’s wife is a classic gothic female. However. but also to emphasis the madness of his narrator and the evil actions performed. Another difference in technique that Poe uses is the way that the anger is placed. His denial of insanity is based on his systematic actions and precision-a rational explanation for irrational behavior. One of the main differences between these two stories is the way in which the reader finds out the ending of the stories.

They both are the same types of scary twisted stories. The two stories are told in first person. 12 . A key feature is the beginning of both stories: they both open with the main character giving an update of their life. Poe makes the end shocking. The short stories have many things in common. surprise and especially terror. such as anger. terror or sorrow are also characteristics of the gothic genre. Fear is the most powerful of all the techniques Poe uses. This gives the reader a quick overview of who the story is about and where they are coming from. sorrow. high emotions control the character. but in “The Black Cat” the main character chooses to displace his anger on to an animal.direct object of which he has problem with. The end of each one is twisted. and both of the characters incriminate themselves. Fear.

After the last of these incidents. and who was even born on the same date: January 19 (which was also Poe’s birthday). The boy gradually imitates William’s dress and talk. it refers to any double or look-alike of a person). the uncanny. he imitates that whisper exactly. but with features all pale and dabbled in blood”. and leaves. Wilson’s boyhood is described. roughly the same appearance. After several paragraphs. apparently the dead double and the narrator feels as if he is pronouncing the words: “In me didst thou exist-and in my death. although he could only speak in a whisper. After he does this a large mirror suddenly seems to appear. Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson” is such a work. One important gothic element is the doppelganger (comes from German.se how utterly thu hast murdered thyself”. 13 . William eventually attends Eton and Oxford. which is also a gothic setting.The other William represented his only competition in sport and popularity. a man of “a noble descent” who calls himself William Wilson. in which the narrative hesitates between a natural and a supernatural explanation. showing “mine own image. At each stage. William left the academy immediately. William describes meeting another boy. who had the same name. gradually becoming more vicious. only to discover that his double left on the same day. in which it is. another one is the chase between the two William Wilsons. similar to the castle. rambling Elizabethan” schoolhouse. denouncing his immoral past. his double eventually appears. with many paths and rooms. The gothic elements in this story are important to the structure and creation of the theme. Todorov conceded that there are borderline works which must be categorized as “fantastic-uncanny” or “fantastic-marvelous”. which was spent in a “large. William drags his double into a chamber and stabs him fatally. his face always covered. in which no rational explanation of the supernatural phenomena is possible. seduces a married woman. and the fantastic. this setting is a gothic element. One night he went into the other William’s bedroom and saw that the boy’s face had suddenly become exactly like his own. The story begins with the narrator. steals money from a nobleman. The house was huge.William Wilson The French structuralist critic Tzvetan Todorov has divided supernatural tales into three categories: the marvelous. whispers a few words to alert others on William’s behavior. at a ball in Rome.

is actually a pseudonym. 14 .W. this second self haunts the protagonist and leads him to insanity. The gothic elements in this story (the doppelganger and the chase) are key elements in supporting theme. This division of the self is reinforced by the narrator’s admission that W. “William Wilson” clearly explores the theme of the double.The setting of “William Wilson” is semi-autobiographical and relates to Poe’s residence in England as a boy.

illness. The doppelganger theme appears in “The Fall of the House of Usher”. A storm begins. 15 . The narrator tries to calm Usher by reading “The mad Trist”. haunted house. falls into the Gothic category. a novel involving a knight who tries to escape from a storm. but on the next few weeks both Usher and the narrator find themselves becoming increasingly agitated for no reason. Usher comes to the narrator’s room. Roderick Usher. It is revealed that Usher’s twin sister.The Fall of the House of Usher Poe’s intention when writing “The Fall of the House of Usher” was not to present a moral. who suffers from an unnamed disease. and that Usher in fact knew that. Madeline. When the dragon from the novel is described a sound is heard in the house. sound. The narrator flees the house. hypochondria (excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness) and anxiety. lesson or truth. feelings of fear and guilt. The bedroom door is then blown open to reveal Madeline standing there. he looks back while running upon the house of Usher and watches it break in two. The guilt and fear center on Roderick Usher. Usher becomes hysterical. who was in fact alive when she was entombed. is also ill and falls into cataleptic. All of the characters are linked to death. who dies of his own terror. Usher later informs the narrator that his sister died and insists that she be entombed for two weeks in a vault in the house before being buried. which is situated directly above the vault. The reflection of the house in the torn is described in the opening paragraph. having received a letter from him complaining of an illness and asking for his comfort. They inter her. The gothic elements in this story are: the crumbling. Usher’s symptoms include hyperesthesia (extreme sensitivity to light. smells and tastes). this work has many characteristics of Romanticism. and claims that the sounds are made by his sister. Bringing up the symbols of death is a major part of this writing. She falls violently on her brother. The tale opens with the unnamed narrator arriving at the house of his friend. death-like trances. the fragments sink into the tarn. Life after death was the underlying meaning to this story.

Fortunato. and psychology. setting. they observe the niter and cobwebs that drape the walls and the decayed bodies that surround them. One method of Gothic literature that Poe uses to improve the revenge theme is the use of mystery and suspense. presents himself as an individual who seeks revenge and the immolation of Fortunato. The use of psychology throughout the story also plays a role in the gothic story’s topic. unaware that hi is walking into a trap that will bring him to his death. Montresor. you will be ill and I cannot be responsible”. 16 . he has never been caught. buries Fortunato behind a wall. Edgar Allan Poe uses gothic methods. When Montresor advises: “you are a man to be missed…we will go back. so he discreetly foreshadows what will happen to Fortunato. In the last few sentences Montresor reveals that it has been 50 years since the murder.The Cask of Amontillado In “The Cask of Amontillado”. where he left it. which include macabre. the possessed protagonist. As Montresor and Fortunato walk through the catacombs. they notice that the “walls had been lined with human remains”. to illustrate the dark feeling in the characters. unites with him in the catacombs to find the cask of Amontillado. tone and feeling to emphasize revenge. As the pair progress through the catacomb. who has injured Montresor in many ways. When they reach the end. the antagonist. plot and theme. “The Cask of Amontillado” contains gothic characteristics that create the perfect essence. Montresor becomes from friend a murderer. suspense and mystery. with this description the reader waits for the moment when Montresor accomplishes his payback. and Fortunato’s body still hangs from its chains.

virtualsalt.com) The Gothic Literature Page by Franz Potter Martha Womack: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” 17 .Bibliography • • • • • www. The Gothic Novel 1790-1830: Plot Summaries and Index Motifs Robert Harris: Elements of the Gothic Novel (www.wikipedia.Tracy.org/EdgarAllanPoe Ann B.

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