With age we associate unknowing and knowledge that has passed down generations and been lost. One of the main themes in gothic literature is large ruined buildings. They add to the atmosphere of the story, because it suggests than something inhuman has taken control of what was once controlled by humans. In the Speckled Band, Stoke Moran is “lichen blotched” which shows that nature has started reclaim the building, the walls are “broken” and the windows “blocked with wooden boards. ” Once again humans have an irrational fear of decaying and rotten objects because we associate them with evil and wrong doing.
This means that the reader habitually thinks that the story is to involve death and they deliberate over who is going to be the victim of death. It isn’t only buildings that are decayed in gothic literature, the old people in the Red Room are “withered” and ruined. This is similar to the idea of the buildings being old and decayed. It gives the impressions that the people have become part of the furniture and are becoming reclaimed by nature. The narrator says that “there is something inhuman in senility”, this inhumanity could be suggested by the “bent” and “wrinkled” nature of the custodian.
There is a completely different use of ruin and decay that is employed particularly in The Withered Arm. This is the suggestion of ruin in the mind, corruption of thoughts and emotions that have been tainted with evil. The idea that Rhoda can “raise a mental image of the unconscious Mrs Lodge” is an unsettling image for someone to have. It raises questions in the readers’ mind, unanswered questions, which links to the idea of the unknown. In Rhoda’s “vision” the ruined Gertrude is an “incubus”, and a figure of her ruined and twisted mind.
The ruin makes real and mundane things more exciting and this is what I think adds to tension and suspense. Most of the aspects of the story that I have explored all connote the supernatural in a small way. So I think that this is the most significant contributing factor to tension and suspense for most people. Supernatural comes from the Latin for above nature, it is something that as humans we can’t rationalise or explain. This makes it ideal to increase suspense, because if rationalisation is impossible then it is difficult to predict what will happen in the story.
In the Red Room the narrator couldn’t explain why the candles went out, although there was a logical explanation. He starts to invent supernatural forces in his mind. He says that an “invisible hand” swept out two candles. He couldn’t understand why the candles were going out so he has invented a supernatural being than possesses power that he cannot : invisibility. The reason that the supernatural increases tension in this story is, the narrator has to fight against the “invisible” force, “[he] feared and fought against returned”.
The fact that he “fought” places emotional strain on the reader, the reader fears for the safety of the narrator. In this story the narrator also explains what the real force that he was fighting against was. He explains that real force he was fighting against was his own “fear”, but oddly he still personifies the fear and says it “followed [him]. ” This suggests that maybe he still isn’t entirely sure himself, because the percieved supernatural has had such detrimental effect on his mind. His mind is decaying and becoming ruined.
The anti-climactic ending of this story is typical of gothic literature, because it counter-acts the tension and suspense created in the plot of the story. Whether rational or irrational, people associate supernatural with evil, possibly because their power extends beyond ours. In Rhoda’s vision in the Withered Arm, Rhoda automatically associates the decaying feature of Gertrude, with an evil “incubus”. This link to superstition is present in The Mortal Immortal as well, be it ancient occult, or more contemporary religious views. In the Mortal Immortal the narrator describes Cornelius Agrippa as “Satan.
” This makes the reader know that Cornelius is evil and a force to be reckoned with. Similarly in The Withered arm the reader knows because of the reference to an “incubus” that the vision is going to involve conflict. The conflict makes the reader tenser, as the outcome of the conflict is not known. Although the aspects explored already individually add to the tension and suspense created, the unknown seeps into every convention of the Gothic and builds suspense throughout the stories. The first piece of information that is omitted by the writer, in most of the stories is the name of the narrator.
This is because, a named narrator would start to make the story realistic and make the reader link it more to reality. This would consequently remove a small amount of the suspense and tension created by the lack of a name. To an extent the lack of a name also stops the reader giving the narrator a personality.. This allows the reader to imagine him/her as the narrator, and involves the reader more in the story. This bonding enables a better transfer of emotions from the characters to the reader. The Mortal Immortal is unusual in the sense that the narrator is named.
Similarly, the Withered Arm is written In the third person and so the characters have to be named. The Speckled Band is a slightly different genre to the other stories. It focuses on the solving of the mystery, so leaving the narrator unnamed wouldn’t add to tension or suspense. Like many of the other aspects, the unknown taps into the specific nature of human beings. The desire to learn and understand is the driving force of all of our achievements and so it is nai?? ve to not exploit this when writing a story or novel. Asking questions in a story, creates a desire in the reader to know the answer.
The more information that is provided the more the desire to know the answer is increased. This creates a very high level of tension and suspense. In The Mortal Immortal the “elixir” supposedly has the power to make a human immortal. This question isn’t answered straight away. A question subsequently followed by the answer doesn’t have the same level of impact as slowly providing the answer. I have the ability to enjoy the five stories as much as anyone else, however I have a very logical mind that seeks out scientific and logical explanations to things.
The stories that concentrate on supernatural do not appeal to me as much as the other stories. For example The Red Room could be explained by a draught emanating from the open windows that blew out the candles. For me the story which has the ability to create the most tension and suspense is The Speckled Band because, all the way through the reader knows that there is going to be a scientific explanation. It isn’t reliant on the fact that the reader believes there is an unknown supernatural force present.
I understand that a story has to have excitement in it to make it interesting so I believe that, both darkness and isolation are effective at increasing tension and suspense. The darkness has the ability to do this without forcing the reader to revert to a supernatural explanation. Ruin and decay rely on the supernatural to create tension and suspense and so I don’t consider these an important aspect in the story. In conclusion I think that the most important aspect in the Gothic literature is the unknown, unanswered questions that compel the reader to read on and find the answer.