Gothic horror is a type of romantic, horror fiction based on irrational fear that predominated in 18th century England. The term ‘gothic’ originated from the architectural style of the middle ages, but came to describe the dark, terrifying tales that achieved such popularity. Gothic horror can be determined by many things which exist in all gothic horror stories, for example eerie settings such as gothic monasteries, bleak comfortless castles, grave yards and cobwebbed rooms lit by guttering candles.
It can also be determined by a unique character such as a beast, monster, ghost, evil creature and innocent person. Usually the innocent person is killed by the evil creature in a gothic horror story. Fear, supernatural and the macabre were also essential elements in gothic horror. I looked at six stories but I will focus on three of the stories which appear to fit the genre, these stories are ‘The Judges House’ written by Bram Stoker who lived from 1847 to 1912. It is about a person called Malcomson who moves into an old house.
He gets disturbed by rats while living in the house and then gets killed by a judge. ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ written by Edgar Allen Poe who lived from 1809 to 1849. This is about a man who is killed by another man at his house, police go to the house after getting a disturbance call from the neighbours then the killer confesses about the murder to the police. ‘The Signalman’ written by Charles Dickens who lived from 1812 to 1870. The story is about a signalman who sees a ghost and every time he sees it, the ghost shows something in the future which is going to happen.
The signalman tells a passing man about this incident, the man and him become friends. Then the signalman sees his own death without knowing, he tells the man about this, they think of a rational reason for this but however the signalman dies. All three stories were written in the 19th century. They were all set at the same time when they were written. This is a good effect because at the time when they were written, horror stories containing superstition and the macabre were popular because the people at that time believed in witchcraft, ghosts and demons.
The location of the action is of great importance in the gothic novel because it creates an atmosphere and feeling to the story. ‘The Judges House’ is located in the dining room of an old, quiet and isolated house. An old, rambling, heavy built house, this creates a scary atmosphere thus matching the typical setting of a gothic horror story. It goes on to describe the dining room as a, room in darkness, this also creates a scary and terrifying atmosphere because you cant see in the dark and you don’t know what’s in the dark, this also is an essential gothic horror element because darkness creates a creepy and scary atmosphere.
‘The Tell Tale Heart’ is located in a house that is probably old as a lantern is used by the narrator, this creates a scary atmosphere like the ‘Judges House’ because you cant see in the dark and you don’t know what is in the darkness so the reader imagines things that create the scary atmosphere, for example, the reader may imagine evil creatures emerging from the darkness, or someone suddenly jumping out from the dark surroundings. ‘The Signalman’ is located in a railway station that is isolated which is gloomy and dark.
This creates an intimidating atmosphere because isolation makes the reader think why it is isolated and the darkness as I said before creates a scary atmosphere. Also it refers to the place as being a great dungeon which is a typical setting of a gothic horror story. From the three stories I have read, the plot in the story was similar, it is really about good versus evil and because it’s a gothic horror story evil is supposed to win.
‘The Judges House’ it is about a person called Malcomson who moves into a old house because he wanted to get on with his studies he was doing, in this house Malcomson gets disturbed by rats, especially one rat that was bigger and looked evil. Then one day he was killed by the judge that haunted the house, who was in fact the bigger and evil rat. This is a typical gothic horror plot because the good is killed by the evil.
I think Stoker wrote the story well because he always throughout the story created a scary and macabre atmosphere by using descriptive words baleful eyes to describe a thing such as the rat which would produce a frightening image in the readers mind. I think Stoker did this well because his usual style is horror. This is a typical gothic horror plot because the good is killed by the evil. ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ is about a crazy man who kills an old man because he didn’t like the old man’s eye.
I think Poe wrote the plot as he did because his usual style is being a critic, so he put a bit of criticism in the story as the man killed the old man because he didn’t like his eye, he thought it resembled that of a vulture. This also is a typical gothic horror plot because the innocent person (the old man) is killed by the evil person (the crazy man). ‘The Signalman’ differs from ‘The Judges House’ and ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ because the evil doesn’t kill the good or innocent this time.
‘The Signalman’ is about a signalman who sees a ghost which warns him about something which is going to happen. The thing which the ghost warns the signalman about is his death, and then the signalman dies. This isn’t really a typical gothic horror plot. I think Dickens wanted to create a mystery in the story as well as horror because his usual style of writing is mystery and horror, so he put mystery in because he is use to it. Characterisation plays a major part in all three gothic horror stories.
In ‘The Judges House’ Malcomson is studying mathematics and people who study are thought to have a more mature approach to the supernatural, this is why he laughs when Mrs Dempster, the charwomen, warned him about mysterious ‘somethings’ I think Stoker chose this character because he would fit a typical character as he is a innocent and rational person, Stoker knows this because horror is his usual style of writing. Also Malcomson is a very intrigued in his studies, I think Stoker gave these characteristics in Malcomson because Stoker himself went to college and knows how studying is interesting and affects a young person.
The judge, who is another main character, only comes in the story at the end, but at the end we also find out that the judge is in the story before the end as the big, evil rat. I know that the judge is evil because every time this big rat comes, all the other rats go because of its present. I also know its evil by how Stoker described the rat, baleful eyes, and these descriptions produced, an image in my head showing that it was evil. The judge meets the character determinant as he is the evil creature, he is like a ghost that haunts the house and he is described in a certain way to make him look wicked and evil.