Evolution of the Haunted House in Early and Modern Gothic Novels Essay

Evolution of the Haunted House in Early and Modern Gothic Novels Essay

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Evolution of a Haunted House: The use of setting in early and modern gothic novels
The setting for a novel plays a big part in how the story and its characters relate to the reader. This paper will examine how setting in gothic literature, plays an important role in the telling of a story by using Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and Shirley Jackson’s The House on Haunted Hill as examples.
During the eighteenth century, the Romantic period of literature emerged. The works of this time were often filled with imagination, strong emotional contexts, and freedom from the classical notions of art and social conventions (wordiq.com). The Castle of Otranto, while considered by many to be a Romantic drama, had a style that was distinctively different (Mulvey-Roberts, 226). Elements, not previously seen in works of literature were added to the story, much in the way embellishments were added to buildings of the time. Horace Walpole, used elements of the macabre, mysterious, and violent incidents; along with desolate and remote settings to create the first true English-language gothic novel (Merriam-Webster.com).
The ruins of castles and other ancient settlements, set amongst the gloominess of the surrounding landscape provided the perfect backdrop for the early English gothic novel (Goldstein, Grider, Thomas 145-146). It was at once mysterious, foreboding, and could create a sense of fear and dread in the reader. Horace Walpole took advantage of setting in The Castle of Otranto. The castle evokes feelings of darkness, solitude, loneliness, and claustrophobia (Mulvey-Roberts, 174). There are secret passages, trap doors, secret rooms, and areas of ruin. The aim is to produce the classic emotion of fear of the unknown. Add in a...


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..., a moaning sound is heard prior (Walpole, 34). In The Haunting of Hill House, it is the female protagonist who hears a hammering against the upper edge of a bedroom door that sounded like “something children do”. She also hears "little mad rising laugh" outside the door (Jackson, 95,97).
For more than two centuries, the setting of the haunted castle or house has played with our emotions and psyches. They create tension and fear, while we wait for the ghost or bogeyman to jump out. Author H.P. Lovecraft, known for creating these emotions with his own works, states “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (Lovecraft, 12). This fear of the unknown continues to make gothic novels as popular today, as when Horace Walpole took a romantic drama, added a few shiny bits, and called it gothic.

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