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Explore how both Susan Hill and H.G. Wells exploit the Gothic Horror genre for effect in The Woman In Black and The Red Room.

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Explore how both Susan Hill and H.G. Wells exploit the Gothic Horror genre for effect in The Woman In Black and The Red Room As with all things, the gothic horror genre of literature did not begin at one definable point, but evolved gradually. Gothic horror evolved out of gothic fiction (as opposed to classical fiction, for example the novels of Jane Austen), before establishing itself as a genre in its own right. However, many literary scholars and critics would point to "The Castle of Otranto", written by Horace Walpole and first published in 1764, as the first true gothic horror novel, containing as it does many of the clich�s prevalent throughout the genre. Gothic horror novels are typified by their dark, lachrymose atmosphere of dread and fear. In fact, the key to gothic horror can be summed up in one word: tension. This is created by many devices, as well as having an evil force present working against the hero/heroine. The characters, locations and atmospheres created are designed to be threatening, even when nothing sinister is actually happening. Although the gothic horror genre didn't die out altogether, it certainly lost popularity. However, it has had a minor resurgence over the last decade. Susan Hill is one of the authors who has turned her hand to the gothic horror format, her short novel "The Woman In Black" being released in the late eighties. Susan Hill says she wrote The Woman In Black because she "had the urge... ...read more.


Both these stories have stereotypical narrators, probably because the writers aren't usually associated with the genre and were playing up to genre stereotypes. In The Woman In Black, Arthur Kipps explains that "I had the Londoner's sense of superiority in those days, the half-formed belief that countrymen... were more superstitious, more gullible, more slow-witted, unsophisticated and primitive than us cosmopolitans." In the Red Room, the narrator expresses shocking arrogance when he says "Eight-and-twenty years... I have lived, and never a ghost have I seen as yet." In fact, the narrator of this story seems to have a particular problem with old people, opining, "There is to my mind something inhuman in senility, something crouching and atavistic." The tendency for narrators in gothic horror stories to fit this stereotype is not a coincidence: there is a carefully calculated effect behind this casting. The arrogance and naivety compounds the alienation the character feels from the other people in the story, and discourages the narrator from taking their advice: another common aspect in gothic horror fiction is having older people in the story who are wiser and more experienced in matters of the supernatural. Naturally the narrator takes no notice of these potential allies, until later in the course of the plot. The other, even more important, effect of the personality traits prevalent in the narrator is how the character evolves. The character starts off in a state of sheltered security, but the events in the tale break these securities, leaving the character exposed and psychologically damaged. ...read more.


The narrator then dismisses these supposedly unfounded stories as idle superstitions, such as in The Woman In Black, when Arthur Kipps says he "dismissed the notion, putting his remarks down to some local tales and silliness which had grown out of all proportion, as such things will do in small, out-of-the-way communities." These hints and half-answers serve the purpose of building up the tension. Although not as palpable as, say, a moonlit graveyard, they do add to the background tension, and start to become more tangible when these rumours start to become reality. These stories may differ in many ways, but are so similar in others, that claims of plagiarism couldn't be too lightly dismissed. These two stories are particularly interesting because they were both written by authors who aren't normally associated with the genre, so they have explored the clich�s more than a seasoned horror writer might. But despite being so blatantly "influenced" by genre standards such as Henry James' The Turn Of The Screw and work of M.R. James, they remain gripping. This is because they appeal to our wish for escapism and a decent scare, a need that is pandered to by almost every work of fiction. This is the basis of horror writing - that the reader wants to be scared; if the reader approaches the story with the attitude of not wanting or expecting to be scared, he or she will not be affected by the story so much. However, gothic horror is still one of the most effective mediums for provoking fear, ensuring its enduring popularity. ...read more.

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