Gothic horror first started to appear in the early C19th. Gothic was applied later on by renaissance and enlightenment negatively to mean medieval critics because it was considered barbaric. As the centuries went past the term gothic was no longer the meaning of a negative connotation so it was used to refer an ancient past in a nostalgic way. At the end of the C18th the gothic movement had changed from enlightenment rationalism to horror, darkness and elements from the dark realm.
The gothic movement is still but mostly horror. Common motifs used in gothic horror stories are murder, suicide, torture, madness, lycanthropy, ghosts, vampires, demons, poltergeists, demonic pacts, diabolic possession/ exorcism, witchcraft and voodoo. I’m going to analyse ‘Napoleon and the spectre’, ‘The goblins who stole a sexton’ and ‘The signalman’. Napoleon and the spectre is written by Charlotte Bronte, the goblins who stole a sexton and the signalman are both written by Charles Dickens.
At the starting point of the ‘Napoleon and the Spectre’ story Bronte already mentions that there’s something or someone in Napoleons room; she writes: “…. in a few minutes the emperor felt his pillow becoming hard, and he got up to shake it. As he did so a slight rustling noise was heard near the bed-head”. But it stops as Napoleon lies down. This indicates that a ghost is in the room and the mysterious noises also indicate that the presence of a ghost is possible.
Ghosts and mysterious noises are crucial elements of gothic horror because they’re inhumane things so people are scared of them and mysterious noises are linked to ghosts, ghosts are one of the common motifs used in gothic horror. Napoleon responds to a deep groan from a closet in the corner of the apartment by crying ‘Who’s there? ‘ ‘Speak or I’ll blow your brains out’. A short sharp laugh is the reply to this threat and a dead silence follows. Again this indicates that there is a ghostly presence and the dead silence is a crucial gothic element because this creates tension.
When Napoleon opens the closet another rustling noise was heard but nothing was there, also indicates a ghostly presence. Bronte is describing ghostly effects. When the candlelight is obscured by a black opaque shadow another gothic element (darkness) is brought in. Darkness is another crucial gothic element because some of the common motifs used in gothic horror are associated with darkness such as vampires: they come out at night, witchcraft: witches wear black clothes etc.