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How Effective is the Tomb of Sarah as a piece of Gothic Horror?

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Introduction

How Effective is the Tomb of Sarah as a piece of Gothic Horror? The Gothic genre is a style which existed for two hundred years and still lives on in modern literature. It is a period which incorporated vampires, witches, ghosts and other superstitions into real life and aimed to scare. The mode changed and modernised throughout the years to include the disintegration of order and the fears and desires of man, mirroring the worries of society in the period. All these techniques displayed many classic conventions which are usually easy to distinguish. The "Tomb of Sarah" is a piece from the Gothic which exhibits many of these features, bringing good and evil together in the mortal world. Vampires were figures beyond scientific or natural explanation and with their nocturnal existence and indiscriminate desires seemed a particular sexual threat to cultural value: venereal disease threatened family, society and culture. Loring uses conventional methods in setting, characters and language to create a frightening effect. A story that is not so conventional but is nonetheless a piece of Gothic is The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe. Poe is an author whose stories best illustrate the distortions of the imagination: his chilling Gothic settings with their gloom, decay and extravagance reflect the diseased minds of the characters. ...read more.

Middle

Vampires, ghosts, phantoms and wolves were popular in the genre and Sarah, being a vampire, is very conventional. The superstition read that she was also a witch, "she was a witch or were-woman." Gothic horror took place around the time when witches were burnt at the stake and so such evil forces would inspire great fear in the reader. Loring depicts the threat of women's sexuality. The Countess Sarah attempts to lure her victims using her beauty and hypnotic voice, "her voice had a soporific effect, which I resisted easily enough, but which seemed to throw the Rector into some sort of trance." This theme mirrors the fears of women gaining strength in society. The vampire uses her femininity as a weapon, her beauty is shown as evil which is typical of a male author, "a smile of love, more devilish still." Loring also introduces the spooky theme of isolation, which is another common convention. When villains are isolated they become mysterious and are often rumoured to be crazy, "she lived quite alone in a dark castle." Sarah's only companion is a wolf, "the only companion of her solitude being a familiar in the shape of a huge Asiatic wolf." Wolves were popular in this period of Gothic Horror and were often associated with ghosts and vampires. ...read more.

Conclusion

The author writes in a happy ending and then suddenly puts a nasty spin in to scare the reader just before the end. In The Tomb of Sarah, the reader thinks that Sarah is dead and all is well but then we find that she had attempted to bite a young child the night before; "there were two small marks on her throat." Another notable convention of Gothic horror is the setting of the story. The Tomb of Sarah comes from the early stages of the gothic genre, the Romantic period of the 18th century. In this time the setting was usually desolate, involving churches, graveyards and castles. The Tomb of Sarah contains all these features. The Countess Sarah lived alone in a castle, a prime gothic characteristic. We also witness a battle between good and evil. The vampire is battling moral forces in a churchyard, "how can they work in the sacred precincts of the church?" Also in keeping with the customs is the mysterious fog that appears at midnight when Sarah arises from her tomb. This is a sign of foreboding and another sign of predominating blackness, "a curious mist that has risen around the church." The Tomb of Sarah portrays many classic conventions of Gothic Horror. The characters, settings and atmosphere created display conformist traits of the period. Unlike stories, such as The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe, Loring uses predictable techniques and storylines that make it an easily identifiable piece of Gothic horror. Kathryn Maher ...read more.

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