How does Bram Stoker use Gothic conventions to create an atmosphere of suspense and fear for the reader?

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Fahad Syed        English GCSE Coursework


How does Bram Stoker use Gothic conventions to create an atmosphere of suspense and fear for the reader?

Dracula is one of the most well-know novels, it was written by Abraham Stoker. At the time Dracula was released in 1897, people regarded it as being a romantic horror, with some elements of fantasy and also it was especially famous for it’s gothic conventions.

In modern times the term ‘gothic’ can be regarded as being barbarous, offensive and uncouth. Although many people may not regard it as being scary it is still associated with the ‘unknown’. In the late 18th and early 19th century, gothic ways of living were very common in the Eastern part of Europe, especially in the medieval times.

A convention can be described as a standard feature or an ingredient of a particular sort of writing and in Dracula Bram stoker uses many Gothic conventions to excite the reader. Bram Stoker uses many Gothic conventions throughout his novel in forms of journeys and quests, the use of diaries, letters and journals, sinister buildings and most importantly strange creatures. Stoker also relies heavily on the conventions of Gothic fiction, a genre that was extremely popular in the early nineteenth century. Gothic fiction traditionally includes elements such as gloomy castles, sublime landscapes, and innocent maidens threatened by indescribable evil.

 From background knowledge of Abraham Stoker we know that he was the third of seven children, and he was violently ill as a child. When he was sick, Stoker read many books and listened to the horror tales his mother told him. These led Stoker to start writing ghost stories, even as a child. This explains why he must have chosen this particular genre of novels.

        The book starts off as a first person narrative form the character Jonathan Harker who is sent by a businessman to meet with an old Count named Dracula at his castle located far from civilization. As the first character writes about his personal experiences we find that proves to be very effective, in the way the writer is able to portray the gothic theme to the reader. The first example would be Jonathan’s journey to Eastern Europe,

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        ‘The impression I had that we were leaving the West and entering the East’.

Here the writer portrays an image in the readers mind of the Eastern world, the writer is trying to convey the message that he is entering the ‘unknown’, which is being very gothic. The writer also describes Transylvania as being ‘one of the wildest and least known parts of Europe’; this composes a very mysterious setting to the story. ‘Transylvania’ means ‘the land beyond the forest’. By naming his imaginative world Transylvania, he creates the impression that Jonathan is travelling to a part of the world ...

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