Elements Of Gothic Literature By Horace Walpole 's The Castle Of Otranto

Elements Of Gothic Literature By Horace Walpole 's The Castle Of Otranto

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One of the earliest gothic novels was Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto” from 1764. Since then the same elements used in that novel have been use to create gothic literature. In Professor Robert Harris’ article titled “Elements of the Gothic Novel” he describes ten elements that are present in one way or another in gothic literature. In the following paragraphs I will define these elements of gothic literature outlined by Professor Harris, and explain how Edgar Allan Poe used them in his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher”
The setting of gothic literature, as described by Professor Harris, is a castle “sometimes seemingly abandoned, sometimes occupied. The castle often contains secret passages, trap doors, secret rooms, trick panels with hidden levers, dark or hidden staircases, and possibly ruined sections.” In Poe’s story the state of the house is described. “ The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web work from the eaves.” Also Poe mentions the “evidently decayed condition of the individual stones.” We can see that in this story the house replaces the castle, and that even though it is occupied, due to its outside appearance we can get the impression that it is abandoned. There is a possibility that the house could have secret rooms and it is alluded to when Roderick Usher mentions that he wants to place lady Madeline’s body “in one of the numerous vaults within the main walls of the building.”
Professor Harris continues his article by describing the atmosphere of gothic literature. “The work is pervaded by a threatening feeling, a fear enhanced by the unknown.” Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” does not lack in this elemen...


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...creates and sustains the atmosphere of the gothic.” Some vocabulary that are mentioned is hopeless, to instill fear, used by Poe in the line “Her decease,” he said, with a bitterness which I can never forget, “would leave him (him the hopeless and the frail) the last of the ancient race of the Ushers.” Also the word melancholy to also instill fear used in the line “and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.”
In conclusion gothic literature contains many elements that help it become its own distinct genre. With the help of the article written by Professor Harris I defined these elements and have given examples of How Edgar Allan Poe effectively used them to create a gothic story. In this manner he managed to maintain the tradition of gothic literature set by Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto”

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