Welcome back folks!
I haven’t posted for a while (oh the shame!), but thought I would get the ball (or severed head?) rolling by offering up the following piece that was originally submitted to my own website (LifesBlackRose).
See what you think, and do respond!
“Gothic stories were written in the 19th century, including specific themes, settings, characters and text. Typical conventions of Gothic literature include a dark, rundown building, death, a madman/madwoman and an atmosphere of horror. The writers’ use of language and structure helps build the tension and the atmosphere. For example, a lot of Gothic writers use short sentences to slow down the pace of the story, because of the pauses after a full stop. They also use suggestive colours to create sinister effects (e.g. the colour black is used to describe a lot of places as back represents death). This can be seen in ‘The Red Room’, ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ and ‘The Black Cat’, however not in ‘A Vendetta’. ‘A Vendetta’ uses other techniques to create an effect.
Within ‘The Tell Tale Heart’, Poe writes from the perspective of a first person narrator who is a madman; this is a typical character found in Gothic stories. The psychological disturbance of the narrator is portrayed through his strange motivation to kill the old man; ‘Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold (…) I made up my mind to take the life of the old man- and thus rid myself of the eye forever.’ He had no reason to kill the old man- he hadn’t done anything to trigger the narrator’s obsession. It was just the eye; the narrator mentions no other reason for his motivation to kill. Using the word ‘it’ instead of ‘the eye’ shows the reader how much the narrator is disturbed by the eye. He hates it so much that he refers to the eye mostly as ‘it’. These thoughts are triggered by something as small as an eye, making it obvious he is mad.
In the same way, the narrator of ‘The Black Cat’ is quite obviously mad, however it is clear that this is self inflicted madness as it is brought on by alcoholism. ‘But my disease grew upon me- for what a disease is like alcohol! (…) Even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper’, shows the narrator knew that the alcohol was changing him for the worst and that it was affecting those around him. This means he may not be entirely mad due to the fact that he was fully aware of his actions. The narrator described alcohol as a ‘disease’ and something that ‘grew upon’ him. The word disease makes the audience think of something that needs to be cured; he could be referring to a mental disease as he clarifies a sentence after that it is alcohol he is talking about. He mentions a lot in the first part that he isn’t mad , which is a sign of madness. Alternatively, he could be suffering with some sort of depression, because he drinks a lot of alcohol which could be to help his depression.
Whereas, in ‘A Vendetta’, the old lady is not mad. Her motivation to kill is because of the death of her son. Although, you could say she was quite dark. After killing Nicolas, she went home and ‘she slept soundly that night’. There was no guilt or regret, just satisfaction. Yes, she had avenged her son, but there was no sympathy leading us to believe the death of her son made her a little bit psychotic. This was also shown through the method to get her revenge- ‘All this day the woman gave her nothing to eat. The beast, furious, was barking hoarsely.’ She starved her dog and teased it to make it as angry as possible, not showing any remorse for the suffering dog. All she cared about was getting her revenge. This will scare the audience as they think of old ladies as innocent and harmless. They begin to fear the unknown- you never know what someone is planning behind closed doors. This is completely different to how the narrator in ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ reacted to murder. He became extremely guilty and began hearing the old man’s heart beating, however the old lady didn’t care. This is maybe because she had a more valid reason to feel that way, whereas the narrator of ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ didn’t. Although, this doesn’t excuse her for murder- she was obviously quite mad to kill somebody.
The setting of a Gothic Story is extremely important as it creates a lot of the atmosphere. ‘The Red Room’ is set in an old, haunted castle, reaching the setting criteria of a typical Gothic Story although, the narrator mostly describes the room and passages. ‘The long subterranean passage was chilly and dusty, and my candle flared and made the shadows cower and quiver’ creates an image of a creepy narrow hallway that is very dimly lit. When using the word ‘passage’ instead of hallway, H.G Wells creates a mysterious atmosphere as passages are usually associated with something hidden or secretive. ‘Made the shadows cower and quiver’ is a use of personification in the story, which creates a feeling of terror for the character. When people are scared, they would cower or quiver so these words give the impression that the light is scared of the darkness, symbolising that something is lurking there. This intrigues the reader because they know this is a build up to an event, such as someone or something emerging from the shadows and attacking him.
On the other hand, ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ is set in the victim’s home, the old man being completely oblivious to his plans. ‘And every night about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it oh, so gently’ shows that the old man didn’t know someone he trusts enough to live in his home is planning to kill him. The narrator snuck into his room at midnight, meaning he must have been asleep when the narrator would watch him. This gives the reader an uneasy feeling as they begin to fear the unknown; they fear that someone could be planning to kill them but they won’t know until it’s too late. This is an unusual setting for a Gothic Story, but is still as effective, if not more effective.
Likewise, ‘The Black Cat’ is also set in someone’s home- the narrators. All of the supernatural events followed him and took place in his own home. ‘A series of mere household events (…) these exact events have terrified- have tortured- have destroyed me.’ shows that not only did these events happen in his home but, they’ve scarred him. There must’ve been a lot of events since he said ‘series’ and we would associate a series with a show that has a lot of episodes and drama. This will indicate to the audience that there will be many things happening, intriguing them to read on.
When reading ‘The Red Room’, the title already shows suggestive colours. ‘Red’ is associated with hell and the devil so the reader already thinks of The Red Room as a dangerous place, just by looking at the title. This creates an atmosphere of fear, not knowing what is inside this room and the reason why it is called ‘The Red Room’.
Overall, the Gothic Story that is the most effective is ‘The Tell Tale Heart’. The reason for this is the narrators madness- it is intriguing to read from his point of view. ‘The Black Cat’ also has a mad narrator, but he accepts that he is mad. The narrator of The Tell Tale Heart continuously denies being mad, even when describing in detail the way he killed the innocent old man and how much pleasure he got from it, which is quite ironic. The Tell Tale Heart is the most interesting , especially with the build up of tension when the police are in the room he killed the old man. Poe describes how the narrator is feeling in so much detail, that the reader begins to feel some anxiety as they have no idea if the narrator will get caught or not.”