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Atmosphere of Terror and Suspense in Gothic Literature

Powerful Essays
1764 saw the birth of Gothic literature with the novel 'The Castle of Otranto', written by Horace Walpole. Although, this novel was based on some much earlier literature it set the standard for all the gothic novels that followed.

The 18th century was a time when political power was in the hands of a few rich men. Women did not have the vote, let alone any legal rights. The majority of the population lived in poverty. However things were changing ? the Church was no longer as powerful and the social structure was being questioned. For example, in 1789 the French monarchy was overthrown by the masses starting the French revolution. People were no longer so willing to accept their ?lot in life?.

It was in this background that the genre of Gothic literature was first written. It was called gothic because it placed emphasis on emotions such as awe, terror, insignificance and vulnerability. Gothic novels were fascinated with the grotesque, horrible and supernatural. They were a reaction against realistic literature of the 18th century. Some saw it as a sub-genre of romantics but others argued it was a genre in its own right.

Whatever its genre, gothic novels were typically characterized by their romanticism, melodrama and dark foreboding settings. They were critical of the society of the day and fiercely anti- catholic, disliking the church?s power and brutality. Some of the main gothic writers of the time included Edgar Alan Poe, Charles Dickens, H.G.Wells, Charlotte and Emily Bronte. By the end of the19th century Mary Shelley?s famous novel of Frankenstein had been published and later on Bram Stoker?s Dracula. Of all the stories written in the gothic era, they all contain many of the typical gothic ...

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...ation and descriptive language. Also, with The Tell Tale Heart the tension and suspense has great effect, making the reader wanting to read on. The building of suspense through specific language and literary devices is so firm and efficient that ?The Tell-Tale Heart? has become one of the most famous Gothic short stories in English literature. Poe?s choice of words is known to be precise and concise, and so is his writing style: no devices are used without having certain effects. The Cask of Amontillado is the least representative of the genre because it does not contain so many gothic features and the narrator has a reason for killing: revenge. I believe gothic literature has remained so popular because people like to be thrilled by horror and ghost stories and the central themes never age. The reader can empathise with the story without having to believe it.