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Elements of Gothic Literature

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1 Elements of Gothic Literature
The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

2 What is gothic literature?
Gothic literature began in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s. It soon spread to other parts of the world, especially the United States, where it influenced writers like Edgar Allan Poe (pictured on the right). It is often grouped with Romantic literature, although it explores darker and more tragic themes than other Romantic works of the period.

3 Why the term “gothic”? The term “gothic” is named for the Goths– one of the many Germanic tribes that fought numerous battles with the Roman Empire for centuries. The Goths height of power was around the 5th century A.D. Centuries passed before the term would be used again– this time to describe architecture that was built during the Middle Ages (long after the Goths were gone) because it was considered barbaric and ugly. The term “gothic” was applied to literature (years after the Middle Ages) when these “ugly” castles became the primary settings for many gothic novels.

4 Elements of Gothic Literature
There are a number of specific qualities that distinguish gothic literature from other genres or types of literature. The following is a summary of what I consider the 10 most relevant elements to what we are learning; however, there are dozens of others that could also be considered. Flip the page for more…

5 #1: Setting Gothic literature often is set in old, rundown structures, especially: castles, great country manors (estates), other large neglected homes (like mansions). These buildings generally include hidden passages, trap doors, dungeons, or secret rooms. The building is also usually found in a state of disrepair, which means that it is rundown, falling apart, or has been neglected or abandoned for a long time.

6 #2: environment (setting part 2)
The environment around the setting reflects a bleak or foreboding atmosphere. The environment could also be considered part of the setting. Generally there are dark forests, large imposing mountains, stormy weather, or areas far away from civilization (areas that are isolated from the rest of the world).

7 #3: Atmosphere (Setting Part 3)
Gothic literature stresses an atmosphere of mystery, horror, and dread. This could also be considered as part of the setting. This atmosphere is usually enhanced by the “unknown”. Often the plot itself is built around a mystery, such as unknown parentage, a disappearance, or some other inexplicable (unable to explain) event. The following elements contribute to this atmospehere.

8 #4: An ancient prophecy What’s an ancient prophecy? This usually refers to a very old (ancient) foretelling or prediction (prophecy) of something happening. In Gothic literature, ancient prophecies are usually connected with the old castle, mansion, or estate; or, connected to its present or former inhabitants. Sometimes in modern gothic tales, this part may be simplified by simply referring to a “spirit who wanders…”, but has no direct link to anyone or anything. Prophecies are very common in many works of literature and in movies too! In the “Harry Potter” series, Harry’s parents hide him among humans as a child because of a prophecy that said Harry would grow up to defeat Lord Voldemort.

9 #5: Omens, Portents, visions
Omens, portents, and visions are similar to ancient prophecies because they are believed to tell of something that is an upcoming event. They foreshadow a coming event. A vision is usually seen in a dream. It usually occurs when something supernatural happens while someone is dreaming. It tells the dreamer about something that is going to happen or reveals something to the dreamer about something important. Examples of These Words In Sentences A red sky in the morning can be a portent of a coming storm. They regarded the win as a good omen for the team. It came to him in his sleep– a vision that foretold of something awful.

10 #6: Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events
Dramatic and amazing events can occur in gothic literature. For instance… ghosts walking, inanimate (nonliving) objects move on their own (like a painting coming to life). In some gothic literature the events, in the end, are given a more natural explanation, but sometimes the events remain truly supernatural. Here Scrooge is visited by a ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, in A Christmas Carol.

11 #7: the isolation of the protagonist
The main characters of the Gothic literature are often isolated or alone. It could be physical isolation. For instance, the main character could be trapped in a house far away from other people. It could also be emotional isolation. For instance, the main character could be emotionally cut off from the people around her. The main character in Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca was cut off from the rest of the world with only an evil housekeeper for company.

12 Rumplestiltskin In the classic fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin, the miller’s daughter is locked away in a room to spin straw into gold, where she stays in isolation.

13 #8: Drama The events in Gothic literature usually show high emotion and often reflect a heightened sense of drama. For example, in Gothic literature it is not unusual to see murders, kidnappings, people going mad (crazy), and tragic illness. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is full of drama and a lot of emotion.

14 #9: Vocabulary There are certain words that lend themselves well to gothic literature. On the right are a list of different adjectives, feelings, or other words that are generally associated with gothic literature. Words that give a sense of: Mystery Terror or Fear Sadness or Sorrow Surprise Haste (quick actions like running, and feelings like anxiety or impatience) Anger Darkness Vastness and Emptiness Isolation

15 #10: Metonymy of gloom and horror
A metonymy is a type of metaphor. Remember a metaphor is a comparison between two things that does not use the words like or as. A metonymy is a type of metaphor in which something is used to stand for something else. For instance, a lot of times in movies we will see it raining at a funeral. Therefore the rain stands for something sad. METONYMIES FOR “gloom and doom” Wind, especially howling wind Doors grating on rusty hinges Footsteps approaching Lights in abandoned rooms Characters trapped in a room Ruins of a building Thunder and lightning Rain, especially blowing

16 More metonymies for “gloom and dooM”
Signs, moans, howls, eerie sounds Clanking chains Gusts of wind blowing out lights Doors suddenly slamming shut Baying of distant dogs (or wolves) Crazed laughter Can you think of any others?

17 Resources Pictures and Information

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