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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Essay length: 1918 words

Discuss the Influence of Gothic Fiction upon pre 20th century and 20th century texts and say how Gothic features are used.

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Discuss the Influence of Gothic Fiction upon pre 20th century and 20th century texts and say how Gothic features are used. What is a gothic Novel? It is defined in The Oxford Reference Encyclopedia as a story of terror and suspense, usually set in a gloomy castle or monastery. The Oxford English Reference Dictionary mentions the atmosphere of mystery and horror with a pseudo-medieval setting popular in the 18th and early 19th century. The Chambers concise dictionary identifies the gloomy sinister backgrounds with psychological horror and The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English explains the word 'gothic' has come to mean 'wild', 'barbarous' and 'crude'. Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764) is clearly labelled the first of the gothic novels in three out of my four references. This set a precedent for future writers and had many of the stereotypical features associated with Gothic fiction. Walpole himself revived the movement in gothic architecture renovating his house 'Strawberry Hill' in Twickenham to a gothic castle. It is the medieval castles, the dungeons, monasteries and mountainous landscapes that people relate to Gothic Architecture which has always been a major aspect of the horror of a Gothic novel, creating isolation and fear in an unknown and ominous setting. The influence of the revival of gothic fiction has had undeniable effects on authors work, not all are so obvious however.


Unlike the emotions the reader goes through when reading I'm the King of the Castle, when reading The Red Room it is the supernatural powers that have most effect on the reader '....omens and witches were credible, and ghosts beyond denying.' These evil spirits are not confined to the 'Red Room' however, there is a mysterious movement in the corridor before entering the Red Room '...the candle in the alcove suddenly went out'. The colour red is a strong theme in this short story and has very strong connotations with the devil, danger and death not just being mentioned due to the Red Room however, there are 'red eyes' and 'red reflections'. Death also has a large input to the eeriness of the story, the 'young duke' died in the Red Room which implies to the reader that history might repeat itself during the man's visit to the Red Room, maybe not death but some form of harm, which happens to be true. A gun is also mentioned, which has obvious links with death, the reader may wonder if it will need to be used during the course of this short story. Wells' conjures images of ghouls and evil powers with words likes 'decaying', 'withered', 'grotesque', 'monstrous', 'echoes' and 'ghostly'. These are all words that one would associate with inhuman beings and it is very effective.


Contrasting completely to both previous texts mentioned is I'm the King of the Castle. It is the most modern of the three which is shown in the style of writing, it is more subtle with the gothic elements and at first sight wouldn't be named a 'gothic novel'. Hill concentrates on the psychological side of things producing a 'piercing fable of the brutality latent in childhood innocence' unlike to Wells who simply produces a short 'scary' tale for the average reader of a magazine. I'm the King of the Castle uses the contrast of the natural environment of fields, woods and the weather with the artificial presence of Warings to provide atmosphere and mystery. The setting affects and reflects the characters. The gloom of Warings acts as a physical parallel for the lives of the Hoopers, the yew trees, with their suggestion of death deepen the morbid atmosphere in Warings. The Red Room with dark wooden panelling and staircases, the attic full of dead and rotting things are all aspects of the setting which have such a disastrous affect on Kingshaw. As in The Red Room and Jane Eyre the red room in I'm the King of the Castle is linked with death, the dead and rotting moths and Hooper's dead grandfather whose house it was originally and again has connotations with all things red, the devil, blood, and danger.

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