Stephen King Using Gothic Literature

Stephen King Using Gothic Literature

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Stephen King is known as one of the greatest horror and gothic writers of our time. The reason for this is his ability to fuse the gothic elements created by stories such as Dracula or Frankenstein and todays horror. King has written hundreds of short stories but two in-particular “The Night Flier” and “Popsy” show his unique ability to combined gothic elements from the old literature with realistic settings and people of our era. One of his greater talents is being able to use gothic element like vampires and make us see them in a different light. Kings unique way of writing with his old gothic ideals, new horror ideas, and use of realistic settings help to put a new spin on what we conceive as gothic story.
King owes his success to his ability to take what he says are “real fears” (The Stephen King Story, 47) and turn them into a horror story. When he says “real fears” they are things we have all thought of such as a monster under the bed or even a child kidnapping and he is making them a reality in his story. King looks at “horror fiction...as a metaphor” (46) for everything that goes wrong in our lives. His mind and writing seems to dwell in the depths of the American people’s fears and nightmares and this is what causes his writing to reach so many people and cause the terror he writes about to be instilled in his reader.
The short story “The Night Flier” King uses gothic elements to convey his vampire story from what we all know of vampires and brings in his own elements adding to the horror and terror. Instead of the traditional dark castle King picks a lonely and strange airport, but still manages to include gothic elements such as “thunderheads, some with lightning still going off inside them like giant fireworks” (Nightmares and Dreamscapes, 113-114). The main character is a man named Dees, he is a solitary reporter and photographer. This man’s goal in life is the story and he was “case-hardened and proud of it” (131). In the start of the story Dees is searching for a murderer who seems to be a vampire like creature. King gives details as the story goes along to keep the suspense while allowing the reading to see the vampire to be real.

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Dees talks to a mechanic who explains the man he is looking for and tells him he wears a tux and black over coat that “when it spread out behind him looked like a goddam bat’s wing” (124). Another strange thing that the mechanic tells him is that there was a large dirt pile filled with worms and maggots “like where something died” (125). King seems to have have a sense of humor when he named the vampire Dwight Renfield after Dwight Frye who played Renfield in the 1931 version of the vampire classic Dracula. King shows the use of old gothic elements when one of the victims is found with bite marks and almost no blood. Later Dees is flying his plane following the vampire just as he is about to land “that was when the flashing white lights on both runways below him went out” (119). This ends up with Dees plane crashing and him after getting out as his shadowing the vampire. Finally, he finds himself in a bathroom after having to walk through a terminal filled with bodies. He knew the vampire was present in the bathroom but there was no sign of him in the mirrors. This is when Dees realizes this is a real vampire. The vampire tells Dees to stop his investigation and takes all his film. Then disappears just as the reader imagines a vampire would and end the story with the idea that the evil and horrifying vampire is still out there.
Another vampire story written by King is “Popsy” that almost changes everything that we feel for vampires. Vampires are known to be terrifying and evil but “Popsy” makes an ordinary man into a evil one. Sheridan the main character is the classic gothic character a nomadic person. He has amassed a huge gambling debt and has to pay it off thus he kidnaps small children. “Popsy” starts off in a mall, but shortly after the kidnapping of a boy the setting turns to the road. The first classic gothic setting seen is “a long marshy area on the left, unbroken woods on the right” (157). King continues to drop hints of the child’s strange nature. The boy continues to tell Sheridan that his Popsy will find him and can smell him. The suddenly something slams down on the roof of the car “a huge membranous wing, pulsing with veins, covered the windshield from side to side” (159). Then Sheridan realizes who and what Popsy was after tearing his door off Popsy cuts his throat and lets the thirsty boy drink his blood. This story leaves the reading feeling for the vampire in a whole new way.
King makes both vampire stories use gothic elements along with new age horror. With these gothic elements he strives to make his story deeper and more interesting. In conclusion it shows that modern writers can explore the use of the old gothic elements in there stories of horror and terror. Stephen Kings realistic settings, old gothic style and innate ability to weave a scary story is what intrigues readers today.
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