Gothic Conventions & significance in texts..

Some of the key gothic conventions and how they are used in Dracula, Faustus and The Bloody Chamber.

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  • Created by: Laura
  • Created on: 10-06-10 15:27


Gothic texts often contain the literary technique pathetic fallacy, with weather used to foreshadow events. Storms and heavy rain are frequently used, as is mist.

Mist indicates obscured vision of the characters (often leading to dramatic irony) and adds an element of mystery.

Example: When the 'Demeter' carrying Dracula arrives at Whitby Mina and Lucy witness one of "the greatest and suddenest storms on record" with "wreaths of sea-mist" coming inland.

In the 'Bloody Chamber' Carter frequently uses the phrase "winter and cold weather" here the weather indicates isolation.

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Dreams & Sleep

When characters are sleeping they are vulnerable and exposed. This can be linked to the psychoanalytical approach as when sleeping the characters' id and hidden desires are exosed through their dreams.

Examples: In ;Dracula' the characters are always attacked at night, indicating the vampires are a sexual threat. "I could see that she was still asleep. Her lips were parted and she was breathing in... long heavy gasps."

The Bloody Chamber; Dreamlike narrative voice of 'The Erl-King'. "Beautiful somnabulist" in 'Lady of the House' - she is always sleeping and so is personication of dreamlike desires.

Lack of sleep is also inherently linked to loss of control and madness, shown through Harker's difficulty sleeping at opening of 'Dracula' and Lucy who is "Lying like Ophelia" the archetypal madwomen.

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Alongside weather, gothic writers use other techniques to foreshadow dark events. By doing this a sense of doom and fear permeates the gothic text.

Examples; in 'The Bloody Chamber' the Marquis presents the girl with a "choker of rubies... like an extraordinarily precious slit throat" linking to the attempted decapitation.

The prologue of 'Faustus' mentions "swoll'n with cunning of a self-conceit, His waxen wings did mount above his reach" By linking with the story of Icarus Marlowe shows that the ending of Faust's story is inevitable. The iambic pentameter reinforces this by giving the line a folk-tale like sound.

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The 2 main types of gothic arcticture used are ruins and castles. Both of these have numerous meanings but often represent history and the losses and destruction in the past. Ruins often show that humanity is not permenant. Castles are often a patriarchal power base and a sexual threat (although in 'Dracula' this is subverted; Harker is attacked by females. Also in 'Lady of the House' we see matriarchal power.)

Frequently, hidden rooms in the castle (such as the bloody chamber) represent the id.

Examples; Castle Dracula with it's "frowning walls and dark window openings" .

The Marquis' "Pinnacled domain"

"cobwebs, worm-eaten beams, crumbling plaster" of the chateau in 'Lady of the House'.

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An aesthetic quality that creates strong emotions; usually terror mingled with please. Relates to overpowering awe at the immensity of nature and the knowledge it could destroy you.

Examples; Harker's arrival in Transyllvania "endless perspective of jagged rock and pointed crag."

Numerous stories in 'The Bloody Chamber' relating to nature (especially the werewolf ones.) Particularly the 'Erl-King' where you "step between the portals of the great pines" and "the woods swallow you up".

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Complex Protaganists

This is key as the gothic genre often explores complexity of human nature, in particular our 'dual nature' and darkness within our characters (primary example would be Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde)

Examples; 2 sides of Dr Faustus, he was "graced with doctor's name" and yet conjures dark magic and sells his soul. These 2 sides shown through good/evil angels.

Dracula appears to be a charming intellectual "Nay sir, you are my guest... Let me see to your comfort myself"

Throughout 'The Bloody Chamber' characters cover up/embrace the animalistic and instinctive parts of their nature, especially the 'Tiger's Bride' with the Beast's "cardboard carnival head"

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These are absolutely brilliant! I hadn't thought of the sleep stuff, so that was very helpful. Thankyou! 

Katie Thompson

Really helpful, the Weather one in particular! Thank you for sharing! 

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