Elements of Gothic Literature

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Last updated: April 25, 2019

Atmosphere
Mystery and suspense enhanced by the plot.The plot seeks to discover the secrets lying within the supernaturally charged environment.

Setting
Large, drafty old housesFamily estates

An Ancient Prophecy
Connected with the house/estate or its inhabitants (either former or present).Usually obscure or confusing.May simply be a legend…

Omens, Portents, Visions
A character may have a disturbing dream vision, or some phenomenon may be seen as portent of coming events.”If a statue of the lord of the manor falls over, it may portend his death.”

Supernatural/Inexplicable Events
Dramatic, amazing events occur”ghosts or giants walking, or inanimate objects (such as a suit of armor or painting) coming to life”In some works, the events are ultimately given a natural explanation, while in others the events are truly supernatural.

Overwrought Emotion
The narration may be highly sentimental.The characters are often overcome by anger, sorrow, surprise, and especially, terror.Characters suffer from raw nerves and a feeling of impending doom.Crying and emotional speeches are frequent.Breathlessness and panic are common.In the filmed Gothic, screaming is common.

Women In Distress
As an appeal to the sympathy of the reader, the female characters often face events that leave them fainting, terrified, screaming, and/or sobbing.A lonely, pensive, and oppressed heroine is often the central figure of the novel, so her sufferings are even more pronounced and the focus of attention.The women suffer all the more because they are often abandoned, left alone (either on purpose or by accident), and have no protector at times.

Women Threatened by a Tyrannical Male
One or more male characters has the power, as king, lord of the manor, father, or guardian, to demand that one or more of the female characters do something intolerable.The woman may be commanded to marry someone she does not love (it may even be the powerful male himself), or commit a crime.

Elements of Gloom and Horror
Howling windDoors grating on rusty hingesFootsteps approachingLights in abandoned roomsCharacters trapped in a roomRuins of a buildingThunder and lightningEerie sounds, like sighs, moans, howlsClanking chainsBaying of distant dogs or wolvesCrazed laughter

Mystery
DiabolicalEnchantmentGhostGoblinsHauntedInfernalMagic/magicianMiracleNecromancerOmens/ominousPortentProphecySorcererSpectreSpiritsTalisman

Fear, Terror, or Sorrow
Afflicted/afflictionAgonyAnguishedApprehensions/apprehensiveCommiserationConcernDespairDismal/dismayDread/dreaded/dreadingFearing/fright/frightenedFranticGriefHopelessHorror/horridLamentableMelancholyMiserableMournfullyPanicSadlyScaredShrieksSorrowTearsTerrible/terrified/terrorUnhappyWretched

Surprise
AlarmAmazementAstonishedShockingStaringSurprise/surprisedThunderstruckWonder

Haste
AnxiousBreathlessFlightFranticHastened/hastilyImpatient/impatientlyRunning

Anger
Anger/angrilyCholerEnragedFurious/furyIncense/incensedProvokedRageRavingtemperWrath/wrathful/wrathfully

Largeness
EnormousGiganticGiantLargeTremendousVast

Darkness
Dark/darknessDismalShadedBlackNight

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