Over the centuries, the American fascination for the grotesque and mysterious elements of Gothic literature never died off since its beginnings with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in 1764. The novel was a success; its creative usage of a remote and obscure setting, the supernatural and medieval motifs were found so attractive that its imitations began rapidly publishing across America. Very soon, the Gothic genre was an established classic. Even after undergoing through many changes such as evolved time periods and cultures, the major components and themes of horror, medieval settings and abnormal characters from the Gothic movement are still present among today’s novels and movies, has inspired new genres such as detective fiction, science fiction and the ghost story as well and offers moral and cultural criticism for today’s society.
Once admired for its daring originality, its use of the supernatural as well as motifs of medieval times, The Castle of Otranto would be criticized by today’s modern readers for lacking suspense and emphasis. Published 246 years after The Castle of Otranto, The House on Black Lake by Anastasia Blackwell , though a contemporary piece, shares gothic similarities with it, such as a woman in distress and an air of gloom, horror, mystery and suspense. It tells the story of Alexandra Brighton, who sets off on an investigation of the mysterious home of Ruth and Ramey Sandeley after experiencing a most horrific and unrestful night. She ends up being enticed into a web of her own hidden truths, deceit, and betrayal as well as a fanatic obsession for Ramey Sandeley.
Her and her child’s safety are threatened, but a curiosity for the unknown is what makes the element of terror in this writing and other works so emotionally appealing for the readers. Unlike The Castle of Otranto, The House on Black Lake puts emphasis over building a Gothic atmosphere with diction, tone and setting to effectively capture the reader’s attention and expose it to “the realm of the irrational – perverse impulses, nightmarish terros, obsessions – lying beneath the surface of the civilized mind” (Campbell). American writers today address the way their readers place a great importance over their feelings by strategically choosing their words to be emotionally appealing to effectively share their ideas with a vast audience.
Horror movies have become a booming industry in the recent years. Though many would argue they have no origin with Gothic literature, others would say that it was the literary artists of the 18th century who were the first to nourish the pleasure of terror. Plus, a wide range of movies today still contain an amount of Gothic similar characteristics especially abnormal or mystical characters such as Harry Potter, Twilight, and Dark Shadows. The major aspect in which Harry Potter conforms with Gothic traditions is Hogwarts, a castle representing centuries of tradition. Though it is a source of security and comfort for select characters such as Harry, it is also a convention of evil which must be destroyed. Just as the Gothic movement celebrated, it places importance on destroying history while at the same time preserving it. Dark Shadows is also crafted around a castle which is filled with secrets, magic and evil.
Barnabas Collins, son of Joshua and Naomi Collins is cursed to be a vampire by Angelique Bouchard for not returning her love. A highly dramatic film, Dark Shadows thrills its viewers with its dark history, unexplainable phenomenons of ghosts and werewolves and metonymies of rain and eerie sounds. Though not classified to be in the Gothic genre, Twilight is a tale of a girl who falls in love with a vampire. The movie is based around mystical creatures including one who sees visions of the future and is topped off with effects of overwrought emotion and women in distress. Its appeal to modern teenagers is because it provides a link between realism and the supernatural, and gives its viewers a chance to be in a different expererience. This was what made the first Gothic works so appealing; it was a step out of routine and was a unique craft that entertained and provoked thought.
Even a hundred years later, the genre born out of Henry Orace’s The Castle of Oranto is still evident among the books and movies produced by modern writers and filmmakers today, such as The House on Black Lake and the recently produced Dark Shadows movie. The uniquely crafted Gothic stereotype allowed the American culture to see and experience irregular things such as obsessions from a perspective that was once frowned upon in the earlier ages. The connection the Gothic genre shares with present day literature is formed by using feelings of fright, castles, and other medieval motifs; and in this way, and writers today can express themselves using the ideas of the Gothic writers and make their ideas known to the world.
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Clasen, Mathias. Monsters Evolve: A Biocultural Approach to Horror Stories. Aarhus University. Acadamia. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. 13 Dec. 2012.