The Gothic Genre

“When one thinks of the Gothic, one thinks excess, horror, evil and ruin.”
Excess, horror, evil, ruin. These are the four major themes that Horace Walpole established in his novel “The Castle of Otranto”, setting a trend that gave birth to what is now known as gothic literature. Therefore, when one thinks of gothic texts, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher”, these four conventions can readily be found as key central ideas. Through a comparison of the texts, we are able to see that the four conventions are presented in very similar ways.

The use of excess to evoke fear in the reader is common in both of these texts. From the “awful silence” to the “distinct, hollow, metallic and clangourous reverberation”, everything in both of the texts is exaggerated in order to generate a tone of horror. In “The Castle of Otranto”, it is through the excessive use of exclamation, heightened emotions and hyperbole that terror is emphasised. An example would be the use of the servants: their melodramatic interactions with other characters and their overreactions to the supernatural events in the castle builds up tension that creates terror in other characters and in the reader.

In “The Fall of the House of Usher”, the contrast from the deepest silences to the most ferocious storms, the presentation of Roderick Usher as an oversensitive, frail, easily agitated and nervous man, and the unrealistic collapse of the house at the end of the book as if it were made of sticks presents over the top imagery that is used to gain insight into the narrator’s experience and mental state. This is extremely important as the story is told from the narrator’s point of view, and therefore much of the horror comes from what we are able to see through his eyes.

While the horror in the texts may appear overdone and ridiculous to a modern reader, it is...