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How to identify some Good Gothic Fiction

Post by: Kabita Sonowal

Gothic fiction is usually illustrated along stereotypical lines. A gothic story is usually imagined to have a medieval setting of a Gothic castle, a damsel in distress, a villain with blood-curdling intent, and a knight in shining armor. While all of these could be true while cohesively presenting a gothic story, it would be unfair to write off this genre as puerile or kitsch. It is not as unappetizing as it appears to be. It has evolved over the ages and surprisingly, some of the most well-read poets and writers drew inspiration from it. Contemporary writer Ann Rice has created some of the best-selling works based on Lasher, the vampire. Her works have been inspired by the Gothic, phantasmal elements, incest, lunacy, and romance. Her Vampire Chronicles discuss vampire killings, guilt, and terror. Similarly, Stephen King, the master of horror who writes with a blend of the uncanny and extreme fear has illustrated the Gothic in some of his works.



Take a peek into Margaret Atwood’s writings. First published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale shows traces of the fear element; it is a unique blend of speculative fiction, dystopia, and horror.  It is a scene of women living in oppression and forced to be handmaids to men in a fictitious state called the Republic of Gilead. Therefore it also proves to say that a piece of fiction written along the lines of the phantasmagoric and oppression has become a fecund piece of feminist and university reading too. The Handmaid’s Tale is a tale that is a shameful and dismal reflection of several societies surviving in the 21st century no matter how much we try to shrug it under the carpet. It emerges as a warning.



John Keats’ La Belle Dame sans Merci was inspired by the Gothic romance. This poem is a depiction of some supposed killings. Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is depicted as part of this genre too. It also traces the evolution of this genre from where it began with Walpole (The Castle of Ortranto) and to the current-age likes of Ann Rice and Stephen King.



It is delightful to note Charles Dickens based many of his novels based on the Gothic such as Bleak House  and Oliver Twist. They showed the ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and RL Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are marvelous examples of Gothic fiction. Therefore Gothic fiction survives in good taste and thought; it is not kitsch either and might prove fodder for thought.



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