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Dracula, by Bram Stoker, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, are classic examples of Gothic literature. Gothic literature is a genre that combines elements of both horror and romance. It is identified by its use of terror and horror to shock the reader, and this is usually created by setting the novel in huge, austere castles, with mysterious protagonists and horrific imagery. In the opening of Chapter 2 of Dracula, we are being described the imposing castle of the protagonist Count Dracula, in the eyes of a Solicitor’s clerk’s journal, called Jonathan Harker.
This first person narrative, which also appears in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the form of the Mr Utterson, creates a lot of terror as the fact that they are describing it, really makes the reader come to terms that this actually happened. However, we do not know whether what they are saying is true or false, as we only have the word of the respective characters, given the piece a sense of mystery and suspense.
As these two passages are based on description (describing the house and Mr Hyde in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and describing Count Dracula’s house in Dracula), adjectives are key in creating tension and terror. In Dracula, the adjectives reflect that in the dark, all your senses are heightened, so everything seems bigger, “I stood next to a great door, old and studded with large iron nails, and set in a projecting doorway of massive stone”. This piece is also given an aural dimension by adding noise. In the phrase, “the sound of rattling chains and the clanking of massive bolts drawn back. A key was turned with the loud grating noise of long disuse” the adjectives used are onomatopoeic which gives the reader a sense of sound which brings the writing to live.
In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, negative adjectives are used to describe the house to create an unpleasant aura surrounding the house, associating it with evil, “the door was blistered and distained. [it bore] the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence”. The theme of light and dark plays a large part in Gothic literature, where darkness symbolises evil and horror and light symbolises happiness and safety, down to humans primitive terror of darkness. Both the ‘stories’ take place in the dark, automatically creating a sense of terror. In Jonathan Harker’s Journal, he likens the situation to a ‘horrible nightmare’, meaning the reader can empathise with him.
In both passages, we are given a vivid description of the outside of the buildings, but we are not told about the inside, leaving it up to the readers imagination. This is very effective as it makes the reader feel like he is actually in the scene being described. In Chapter 2 of Dracula, Stoker personifies the house, “it was not likely that my voice could penetrate through these frowning walls”. This is effective as it again makes you think what is on the inside, and in this case, who is doing the ‘frowning’. Again this same technique is done in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The phrase, “a certain sinister building thrust forward its gable” gives the house a sense of its own power, through the personification. This is also shown by likening the façade of the house to a face, “a blind forehead of discoloured wall”.
In the two passages, the door is focused on: “the door which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker” and “I stood close to a great door, old and studded with large iron nails”. This is because it is the gateway between what we know, and what we don’t know as a reader. The fact that there is “neither bell nor knocker” is important as it gives the house an impenetrable quality, making the reader guess what it is the doors are hiding. It also demonstrates the use of contrast to create tension. Contrast is effective as when to juxtaposed things are linked together, tension is created as the reader is unsure what is happening.
Contrast is shown by the main protagonist from Dracula. We are told that he is black and white, symbolising that he is both dead and alive. We are not told anything about the two main protagonists. However the image the reader is presented with are very different in the two passages. In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, we are disgusted by this amoral character who tramples over this small child. In the phrase, “the two ran into one another naturally enough at the corner; [but] the man trampled calmly over the child’s body”, the adverb, “calmly” is the most horrific as it shows he had no problems with what he did. However, in Dracula, the Count is shown to be very hospitable and welcoming, “I bid you welcome to my house.
Come in; the night air is chill, and you must need to eat and rest”. This stark contrast raises the issue as to whether Count Dracula is all that he seems, hence creating terror. Both these passages play on the readers’ fear of the unknown. Both authors use varied techniques to create terror and successfully bring the reader into the narrative. What makes The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde more horrific is that it uses all the Gothic themes, except he then places it into London, making it much more believable than castles and counts. The fear is that it really could be anywhere.