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Gothic is a word used in the twelfth century to denote certain types of architecture connected to the settings used by writers. Gothic fiction initiated as a genre in 1765 with Horace Walpole’s novel “Castle of Otranto.” The majority of Gothic writers would take drugs which inspired them to put pen to paper and write about numerous Gothic features and produce their story. Normally characters are associated with odd or ritualistic behaviour often involving the supernatural. The Gothic Golden Age occurred between 1765 and 1844. Boundaries and limits are both established and challenged by both writers and characters. Tensions between the scientific and the supernatural are often made apparent. Examples of these Gothic features can be found in The Signalman, The Hand and The Dream Woman.
Traditionally Gothic stories are set in castles, churches, darkness or other locations with a sense of evil. Gothic stories are mainly set at night to add an extra illusion of fear. Should a Gothic story be read in a dark room extra fear, tension, anxiety and anticipation would be inflicted upon the reader. This is because when a gothic tale is read in the dark there is a sense of someone or something watching you.
Readers’ expectations when reading a Gothic tale are to read about elements of the supernatural, skeletal or ghostly images and pathetic fallacy. In “The Signalman” Dickens writes “he was a dark sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows.”
This quotation consists of an example of a ghostly, corpse like image. Dickens is Describing a ghostly figure.
“The Signalman” written by Charles Dickens is a perfect example of a gothic setting. The story has many examples of unusual events.
Dickens writes “so steeped in the glow of an angry sunset.”
This quotation informs the reader that the sunset has a violent glow which is unusual for a sunset, the skyline is a deep blood red.
“The Signalman” is set at the Signalman’s hut where the cutting through the tunnel by the hut is unusually deep and gives a sense of foreboding to the reader. The tunnel is made through clammy stone, which became oozier and wetter as you walked to the tunnel and made anybody petrified to enter it.
“The Hand” written by Guy De Maupassant uses great examples of death, a main gothic feature.
De Maupassant writes “I bent down close to the corpse and between his clenched teeth I found one of the fingers from that vanished hand.”
This quotation informs the reader that a finger from the missing hand has been found, but in what mysterious circumstances. Also in “The Hand” the hand itself is described with much detail.
The writer states “The fingers were abnormally long and were attached by enormous tendons to which fragments of skin adhered.”
In this quotation the writer is describing the hand in such ghoulish detail the reader has an image of a gruesome hand projected onto their minds which they will find hard to forget.
A feature of gothic tradition is the use of dark colours to emphasize the evilness of gothic characters and buildings.
In the novel “The Dream Woman” the writer says “The flame diminished to a blue point and the room grew dark”
The effect of this quotation on the reader is that it adds extra fear and suspense due to the darkness.
A main aspect of gothic tradition is elements of the supernatural. In “The Hand” the writer states “I thought I saw the hand running like a spider.” This is an example of elements of the supernatural because a hand running like a spider is beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature and not something any human would have seen.
In conclusion gothic tradition is a fascinating subject because the use of dark descriptive language is effective in giving the reader a terrifying experience. Short stories are effective because the action is condensed and it all happens in a short space of time. There is less background information; all the descriptive paragraphs are there to give atmosphere, the spooky dark events. Short sentences have greater impact than longer ones, particularly
when exclamation marks complete them.