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Compare and contrast three 19th Century gothic short stories commenting upon the authors' use of gothic conventions of horror and the supernatural

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Introduction

Compare and contrast three 19th Century gothic short stories commenting upon the authors' use of gothic conventions of horror and the supernatural Gothic novels were very popular in the late 18th century, early 19th century, and were characterised by an atmosphere of mystery horror and a sense of the unknown. Good examples include Ann Radcliffe's; The Mystery of Udolpho (1794) and Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (1818). In Gothic stories and tales, haunted settings such as castles, crypts, convents, or gloomy mansions, in images of ruin and decay, and in episodes of imprisonment, cruelty, and persecution were used. Until this day, the genre of the gothic has influenced the style of writing, poetry and also film making. Creating an ample setting and atmosphere are important features of the gothic. Gothic literature is generally believed to have begun in the year 1765 with the publication of 'The Castle of Otranto' by Horace Walpole. He is said to be the one who set forth this the genre. It was at a time of industrial revolution when the gothic became increasingly popular. He made use of the superstitions of the past, without believing in them, as a means of freeing the imagination. The title of the novel also gives us a clue to some of the essential elements of Gothic literature. The key word here is 'castle'. Because Gothic literature often focuses on huge and ancient buildings such as castles. Those ancient buildings may be viewed as symbolic of the unique atmosphere of Gothic literature. Cliff hangers and twists are often portrayed in the genre of short stories. The basic elements of a short story include a beginning, in which the reader is thrown into action. The tension contained in the story rises to a high extent and the end usually consists of a cliff hanger or twist. High tension is usually sustained throughout a short story, as apposed to novels, which also incorporate anti- climaxes. ...read more.

Middle

The absence of light can add fear to a story. Set in a lonesome, dark cutting in a track continues to make 'The Signalman' a classic example of a Gothic story. In this story the main character, the signalman, often describes himself as "troubled" and "disturbed." This creates an atmosphere of fear and mystery, regarding the main character. The signalman has 'dark hair,' 'heavy eyebrows' and 'hollow eyes,' this is a common characteristic of Gothic stories, which encourages the reader to view the character as more mysterious and sometimes intimidating and maybe even scary. A significant feature in each of the stories is the use of the supernatural. Ghosts commonly feature in Gothic stories primarily because they can create fear and increase tension. The figure in 'The Signalman' is a mysterious character, his face hidden at all times as he holds his arm across it, "keeping the sleeve across its eyes." Perhaps the figure is trying to hide something or does not want to be recognised. There is no character development here, leaving the figure as mysterious as possible; adding to the Gothic intensity felt by the reader. The reader is unsure until the very end of its purpose in the story. The mysterious figure also leaves the main character anxious and distressed; this is a typical Gothic emotion. No detail is given on the passer by. The story commences with direct speech which brings impact to the story straight away, "Halloa! Below there!" when no voice replies, the first sign of tension and suspense begins to mount. The exclamatory phrase spoken by the passer by is found out to be a tremendously important part of the story. The Gothic vocabulary used throughout this story aids to continuously let the tension build, 'dark sallow man,' 'solitary and dismal place.' The negative connotations and premodifiers emphasise the miserable and melancholy feel to the story. The jumpiness of the story adds to the Gothic tension, "turned his face towards the little bell and when it did NOT ring..." ...read more.

Conclusion

The twist in this story is that with the mystery and suspense built up throughout the story does not end with a major incident or event. Gothic lexis and themes are used throughout all the three short stories and build up suspense and tension (some better than others) and create very gothic elements In all of the stories there is some sort of form of the supernatural apparent. The presence of the supernatural is unsettling and makes the reader uneasy. This is a perfect technique for building tension, as in many well structured Gothic short stories. Another feature that is vital to Gothic stories is the setting and atmosphere. Dramatic and almost symbolic details create the foreboding and mysterious atmosphere desired by the writers. The landscape is often dark and plots may be set in hostile places. Settings of dungeons, cellars and vaults are also used because they offer gloomy and damp conditions, reminiscent of threatening, malevolent actions taken place in Gothic stories. The dramatic use of tension is vital to a gothic story's success; it is particularly effective where the tension is allowed to build and increase and is then released. A common gothic theme is an examination of the psychological unstable. In each of the short stories the author often hints at insanity and mental insecurity. To conclude, all stories were reasonably successful as gripping gothic short stories. 'The Signalman' was most successful however as a Gothic tale because Dickens was able to reveal the plot gradually in the story, due to its long length allowing tension to rise to a great height. 'Napoleon and the Spectre' did not have an effect such as this because the atmosphere created around the Spectre was less ominous, despite to gruesome appearance. I felt that 'An Arrest' was too concise and did not elaborate on enough to be effective in achieving fear and suspense within the reader; it was unable to achieve this due to its short length and fails to engage the reader. ?? ?? ?? ?? English Coursework Mrs. Spalton Craig Weston 10 Burleigh ...read more.

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