Gothic Horror in Susan Hill's The Woman in Black and H.G. Wells' The Red Room

Powerful Essays
Gothic Horror in Susan Hill's The Woman in Black and H.G. Wells' The Red Room As with all things, the gothic horror genre of literature did not begin at one definable point, but evolved gradually. Gothic horror evolved out of gothic fiction (as opposed to classical fiction, for example the novels of Jane Austen), before establishing itself as a genre in its own right. However, many literary scholars and critics would point to "The Castle of Otranto", written by Horace Walpole and first published in 1764, as the first true gothic horror novel, containing as it does many of the clichs prevalent throughout the genre. Gothic horror novels are typified by their dark, lachrymose atmosphere of dread and fear. In fact, the key to gothic horror can be summed up in one word: tension. This is created by many devices, as well as having an evil force present working against the hero/heroine. The characters, locations and atmospheres created are designed to be threatening, even when nothing sinister is actually happening. Although the gothic horror genre didn't die out altogether, it certainly lost popularity. However, it has had a minor resurgence over the last decade. Susan Hill is one of the authors who has turned her hand to the gothic horror format, her short novel "The Woman In Black" being released in the late eighties. Susan Hill says she wrote The Woman In Black because she "had the urge to write a story in the old fashioned sense," perhaps because of a dissatisfaction with modern horror writing and its reliance upon gore and physical danger. HG Wells, although primarily a science-fiction author, also wrote a gothic horror story, "The Red Room". I will be comparing these two stories, to see how these ... ... middle of paper ... ...t be too lightly dismissed. These two stories are particularly interesting because they were both written by authors who aren't normally associated with the genre, so they have explored the clichés more than a seasoned horror writer might. But despite being so blatantly "influenced" by genre standards such as Henry James' The Turn Of The Screw and work of M.R. James, they remain gripping. This is because they appeal to our wish for escapism and a decent scare, a need that is pandered to by almost every work of fiction. This is the basis of horror writing - that the reader wants to be scared; if the reader approaches the story with the attitude of not wanting or expecting to be scared, he or she will not be affected by the story so much. However, gothic horror is still one of the most effective mediums for provoking fear, ensuring its enduring popularity.
Get Access