The gothic tradition
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The GOTHIC Tradition. “The world of Gothic fiction is characterized by a chronic sense of apprehension and premonition of impending but unidentified disaster. The Gothic world is the fallen world,

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The GOTHIC Tradition

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The GOTHIC Tradition

“The world of Gothic fiction is characterized by a chronic sense of apprehension and premonition of impending but unidentified disaster. The Gothic world is the fallen world,

the vision of fallen man, living in fear and alienation, haunted by images of his mythic expulsion, by its repercussions, and by an awareness of his unavoidable wretchedness . . .” (Ann B. Tracy, The Gothic Novel 1790-1830: Plot Summaries and index Motifs).

The Gothic explores the darker side of human nature

  • The characters and the reader confront evil.

  • The Gothic asks the essential questions:

    • What is evil?

    • Are some of us innately evil?

  • Why do humans do evil?

  • What is sin? What tempts us? Why?

  • What do we fear? Why are we afraid?

The Gothic always includes the PRESENCE OF THE SUPERNATURAL

  • Dopplegangers: An evil twin or double – the Ushers, Jekyll and Hyde, Ged & his shadow

  • Ghosts

  • Demons

  • Spirits – the shadow

  • Evil Monsters – Hyde

  • The devil

  • Demonic possession

  • Black Magic

  • Shape Shifters

Narrator or character who is both innocent but curious

  • with a need to know – which leads to confrontation with the taboo, the forbidden, evil

  • With a desire to quest for knowledge – which leads to knowledge of evil

  • With an urge to pry into [deadly and/or dangerous] secrets

  • Why does the main character enter that attic/ basement/ old house anyway?

Gothic Conventions


Elements that often reappear in a specific genre, or form of literature; while they do not necessarily define the genre, they are common to the literary form.

Separate Worlds: The narrator is separated from the real world

  • Dark horrific Realms – claustrophobic, sunless space

  • Remote locales

  • Ruins of Castles, mansions, houses

  • Crypts, tombs, cemeteries (physical decay, skulls, images of death)

MORE about Settings

  • Hidden rooms, passages, attics, dungeons, towers, a precipice, labyrinths, secret passage, hidden doors

  • Imprisonment or traps

  • Metonomy(a part represents a whole) of gloom and horror = wind, rain, doors grating, howls in distance, lights blowing out

Witching Hours

  • Darkness & night

  • Midnight

  • Twilight

  • Full Moons

Unnatural Acts of Nature

  • Eclipse of the sun

  • Blood red moon

  • Fierce wind or storm

  • Unnatural silence

Conventional Plot Devices

  • Manuscripts & artifacts

  • Ancestral curses, family secrets

  • Damsels in distress, abduction, rape

  • Revenge

  • Burial alive

  • Insanity or madness

In conclusion . . .

  • Not all novels with gothic elements are part of the traditional Gothic canon (1790-1830), Poe & Hawthorne fit this;

  • The Gothic retains links to the past: folk tales, superstitions, medieval ballads, romances, epics and legends – all of which contain elements of the supernatural.


When every element of the narrative is symbolic.

What are narrative elements?

Plot, character, setting, objects

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