Elements of Gothic Literature





Elements of Gothic Literature

            It is quite easy to identify Gothic literature basing on the effect the literature has on a person. Normally, such literature results in feelings of gloom, suspense and mystery, given the different elements that characterize the plot. However, these may as well induce feelings of thrill as a person experiences horror and dread in a safe and interesting way. Gothic elements are employed in most literature today, including literature of the past. This paper addresses different aspects that characterize Gothic literature, with special reference to Faulkner, William’s A Rose for Emily, Poe, Edgar’s The Cask of Amontillado, and Oates, Carol’s Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, which are examples of the many Gothic literatures available today.

In these Gothic novels, the authors use the characters, the setting, and different events to bring out the Gothic style. The setting may serve to create an atmosphere of gloom, mystery, and horror. For instance, dark, ruined, secret rooms, stairways and corridors. Most Gothic literature has women characters that appear to be in distress and sometimes threatened by tyrannical males. The events therein are terrifying, horrific, and sometimes violent. In addition, romance in Gothic literature involves pain and hurt.

In Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, “Connie,” the main character is scared about Arnold Friend. Arnold Friend is cruel and the author does not explicitly identify him as a real human, a psychopath, a demon, or a dream. However, Arnold Friend appears as mysterious and fearful. “She cried out, she cried for her mother, she felt her breath start jerking back and forth in her lungs as if it were something Arnold Friend was stabbing her with again and again with no tenderness” (Oates 544). This happens when Arnold Friend rapes Connie, although Oates does not directly say it. Violence is a characteristic of Gothic literature, and the vocabulary of violence such as “stabbing” and “no tenderness” is used in this literature.

Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily is largely influenced by the Southern Gothic. The story involves frightening and mysterious scenes such as putrefaction, grostesquerie; old mansions crumbling, and decay. Additionally, Faulkner has used Emily, the main character and a psychic spinster, as a transformation from a past distressed damsel. Her mental inability makes her the heroine of Southern Gothic. Emily perpetrates different scary and unimaginable acts in the novel. “Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair” (Faulkner 97). Emily was strange, as she did not easily let go of the men who were once in her life. She keeps her father’s body, even after his death. Upon her death, the townspeople discover a dead body, which Emily had hid in her bedroom.

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Poe revolves around Gothic terror caused by rivalry and conflicts among the characters. Poe highly utilizes spiritualism and transformation, which are aspects of Gothic literature. For instance, after being cruelly killed, Pluto, a cat, reincarnates in another cat to haunt the narrator’s conscience. Additionally, Poe in this novel brings the dead back to “life” through memory. For instance, Ligea’s husband still sees her in their bedroom architecture, although she is dead. This way, Poe brings out the element of Gothic romance, which is intertwined with horror. Memory of the dead loved ones portrays the power of love that surpasses the permanence of death. Violence in form of murder is also found in this novel. “In me didst thou exist—and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself” (Poe 66). Williamson Wilson utters these words to the narrator after the narrator stabs him. This builds the theme of love and rivals between rivals. Williamson meant that murdering one’s rival is same as coming own suicide.

Conclusively, these novels have related themes, as the elements used in the plot evoke similar feelings in a reader, feelings of terror and mystery. The three novels have elements of violence among the characters, aspects of death and spiritualism, and terrifying scenes. All these among other elements make these novels rank as Gothic literature. Different people perceive Gothic literature differently. While some will find them interesting, other will dislike them. Nonetheless, Gothic literature remains important in literature, as they bring a different touch to literature.


Works Cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. New York: Bedford, 2008. 95-101. Print.

Oates, Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Barnet, Sylvan,

Poe, Edgar. “The Cask of Amontillado.” Philidelphia: Godey Lady’s Book, 1846.

William Burto and William, Cain. “An Introduction to Literature.” New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 483-494. Print.


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