The Gothic Elements in Chosen Stories by Edgar Alan Poe
Gothic as a style appeared in the early Middle Ages. The name of the Gothic itself came from a tribe of Goths, which was one of the largest barbarian tribes. When the Roman Empire was conquered by barbarians, the influence of gothic culture began to shape the newly formed states in Europe. Initially, it was just an architectural style that displaced antique patterns until the Renaissance. However, he also began to be a style in painting and sculpture. However, the gothic novel appeared as a new genre in literature about 250 years ago.
A significant year is 1764, when Horace Walpole published the famous novel entitled ‘The Castle of Otranto’. After the publication of the book, the genre began to gradually develop and become more and more popular. The Gothic novel was common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which were periods of enlightenment and romanticism. In the history of American literature Edgar Alan Poe was an important writer. He wrote many novels and poems in the nineteenth century. He is counted among the leading representatives of the era of Romanticism, but in his work there are many elements characteristic of Gothic literature.
Elements characteristic for Gothic literature were such motives as death, mysticism and mystery. Fantastic elements and an atmosphere of horror often appeared in novels. The theme of death is one of the most common motifs in the work of Edgar Alan Poe. In many of his short stories and poems, one of the characters dies. It is worth mentioning that Edgar Alan Poe also liked to kill women in his stories. He liked to entwine the motive of death with the motive of love, because many of his main characters were in love with beautiful women who died because of tragic circumstances. The evidence of the significant influence of the death motif on Poe’s work is the inclusion of the names of dead beautiful women in the titles of his poems.
Poe’s first poem, in which the gothic elements appear, is ‘Annabel Lee.’ The poem consists of six verses, although the poem has a grim ambiance, it begins like a fairy tale. The author begins the poem with these two lines, ”It was many and many a year ago/In a kingdom by the sea. ” The story tells of the unfortunate love of the main character to Annabel Lee. Poem mentions that the main character has fallen in love with Annabel from his childhood. Unfortunately, that relationship broke when Annabel Lee died. The third stanza mentions her death in the third stanza: ‘’A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling/My beautiful Annabel Lee/So that Her highborn kinsmen came/and bore Her away from me. ’’ Despite the death of his beloved, the protagonist does not cease to love her. The protagonist also thinks that the angels are responsible for the death of Annabel, because they were jealous of love, which was presented in the poem as ideal love. I believe that this poem best shows how Edgar Allan Poe liked to combine the thread of death with the love theme.
The next poem, however, has more gothic elements than ‘Annabel Lee’. ” Raven ” Edgar Alan Poe contains not only the theme of death, but also a mood of horror and mystery, and a fantastic element. The theme of the dead woman also appears in the story of the poem. The main character, who is a narrator in a poem, is in a state of depression after Lenore’s death. It is mentioned by the protagonist, ” From my books surcease of sorrow-sorrow for the lost Lenore-For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.
At some point, the title raven flies into the narrator’s house. It turns out that the raven can speak but one word that the raven pronounces is ‘Nevermore’. The narrator begins to ask questions to which the raven responds with the mentioned word, and along with the course of the plot the hero falls into madness. In this poem, the theme of death is more extensive and not only for Lenore, but also for the raven that symbolizes death. The poem is very mysterious and a lot of elements in it the plot are metaphorical. Apart from the theme of death, the motive of madness is also important. I believe that the raven could in fact only exist in the imagination of the main character, which showed his gradual falling into madness because of the death of his beloved.
In addition to the work of Edgar Allan Poe, there are many other novels that are popular today and contain a lot of gothic elements. An example is the ‘Frankenstein’ published in 1818 by Mary Shelley. ‘Frankenstein’ is the story of scientist Viktor Frankenstein who was trying to understand death that he needed it for his greatest achievement, which is the creation of a human. At the course of the plot, the scientist manages to create a human. The results of his experiment, however, turn out to be disastrous because after the experiment, the monster escapes from the laboratory. Although having human feelings and intelligence, which allowed the monster to learn quickly, all people were afraid of him because of his terrible appearance. Lack of acceptance among other people became the main reason for the monster’s revenge on his creator whom he started to pursue. The novel has a clear theme of death. In the novel, Viktor Frankenstein tries to overcome death through experiments aimed at bringing the creature to life. The atmosphere of horror is even clearer, because every encounter with a monster arouses fear. However, this is sad because rejection and fear of the monster is painful for him.
The last novel that contains gothic elements is ‘A Christmas Carol’ written by Charles Dickens. The story is about Ebenezer Scrooge, who is a miser who cares only for his own interests. On Christmas night, he is visited by three ghosts. Ghosts represents past, present and future Christmas Eve. Ebenezer’s meeting with the last spirit of future Christmas Eve contains the biggest amount of gothic elements. In the story there is a mood of horror and the theme of death. That motif applies to the death of the main character that could have happened. An example is the moment when a phantom ordered a main character to view a gravestone in a cemetery where his name and surname are curved out.
To sum up, Edgar Allan Poe’s work is filled with elements of Gothic literature. The most frequent motif was the death of a beautiful woman. In this way, it was possible to combine the theme of death with a love story. Unhappy love was a popular subject not only in Poe poems but also in other novels of Romantic writers. In some of Poe’s poems, such as ‘Raven’, there was also an atmosphere of horror and mysticism.
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