Literary Essay Sample: The Gothic and Its Influence in Three Works in the Textbook

Published: 2022-09-26
Literary Essay Sample: The Gothic and Its Influence in Three Works in the Textbook
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Fiction Nathaniel Hawthorne Edgar Allan Poe
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 905 words
8 min read

Gothic works of literature usually have dark themes, a sense of foreboding and terrifying plot lines, suspense, tension, murder, insanity, supernatural tendencies and so on. These Gothic elements and themes result in a chilling effect on the reader. Edgar Allan Poe is the archetypal nineteenth-century Gothic storyteller. The Tell-Tale Heart there are more than enough elements of the Gothic style (Kennedy and Gioia 40). Poe employs Gothic techniques ranging from murder, insanity, pervasion, guilt and recurring of past sins and so on. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, the titular character is a Christian in the late seventeenth century (Kennedy and Gioia 260). There are dark themes and supernatural elements such as good versus evil personified. Cathedral by Raymond Carver, written in 1983 is not Gothic, but it uses thematic and stylistic aspects of the genre(Kennedy and Gioia 85). The main characters are two men, strangers to each other, connected by mutual association with the narrator's wife. Cathedral is mysterious and uses a sadistic narrator; when the reader realizes that the narrator's insecurities are unjustified. The three works will be analyzed below:

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The Tell-Tale Heart

In Poe's story, the plot is grotesquerie. The narrator is insane although he refutes that fact several times. The narrator commits murder; he kills the old man out of nothing but the fact that the latter had "the eye of a vulture- a pale blue eye with a film over it" ((Kennedy and Gioia 40). He professes that "madmen know nothing" and tells us the readers how meticulous he planned his murder. Insanity is a clear Gothic element in the story. Then there is the repeated pervasive fascination with the rheumy eye; Gothic works revolve around obsessions. For seven days straight in the middle of the night, the narrator goes to the old man's room to kill him but cannot because of the shut "eye of a vulture" as the old man slept. The narrator is obsessed with the eye. There is also impending terror and death. "Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him" (Kennedy and Gioia 41). The old man is terrified when he wakes up to the creak the narrator makes in his room. It is very dark; the reader feels the suspense.

Supernatural tendencies manifest when the narrator claims to hear the beating heart of the old man. He commits murder and then dismembers the body- grotesque acts of horror. When the policemen, come around at length after lying to them he continues to hear the heart beating so much that he admits to committing murder. It is guilt eating at him. He shows the policemen the planks where he hid the corpse, screaming "It is the beating of his hideous heart! (Kennedy and Gioia 40). The way the police officers treat him with understanding suggests that the narrator has mental issues and it could be public knowledge. Poe uses an unreliable narrator to achieve the maximum Gothic effect.

Young Goodman Brown

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown there are dark themes in the form of personification of evil. The titular character starts his journey at sunrise, a choice his wife Faith considers terrible. She tells her husband "put off your journey until sunrise" (Kennedy and Gioia 260) because she fears for herself; this is a foreshadowing. Goodman has his faith tested when he encounters the Devil. The environment in the forest is prime Gothic: "He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest" (260). The dark environment, the cloud over his head, the forest represents evil.

There is an impending sense of doom. Goodman Brown can feel it too. He has doubts concerning leaving his wife Faith. The Devil soon tests his Christian faith. Goodman does not know that he has met the devil. Goodman's doubts his faith without realizing he is sinning metaphorically by engaging with the Devil. Upon returning, Goodman is skeptical of everyone in town. His innocence is gone such that when he comes back and sees how his wife and the townspeople act. He is no longer sincere in his prayers, so much that when he dies, at the funeral the atmosphere is gloomy.


John Carver's Cathedral is arguably not a real Gothic work of fiction (Kennedy and Gioia 85). The story has elements of a mystery though especially at the end when Robert and the narrator are drawing a Cathedral. The narrator is sadistic. The narrator doubts whether the blind man, Robert, is blind. The narrator has a skewed perception; he judges people based on their physical appearance. A reader cannot fully trust the events as the narrator tells them. He does not want Robert, their visitor to feel at home because he is jealous of the depth of friendship he has with his wife.

His persistent doubts and passive-aggressiveness are pervasive. There is mention of the supernatural, in the spiritual beliefs of Robert who preaches and besides that is a teacher. The narrator's life is dreary, dark and gloomy which is ironical because the blind man is the one who is optimistic and visionary. Dark and gloomy mindset is the Gothic equivalent in this case. The narrator thinks he is irreligious, but by the time he and Robert are enthusiastically, drawing a cathedral, the reader knows he is starting to believe in something.

Work Cited

X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, 5th edition. Pearson/Longman, 2016.

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