A famous novel Dracula written in 1897 by Bram Stoker is considered by scholars as Gothic horror novel. First, lets define what the terms Gothic and horror novel mean. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Gothic novel is European Romantic, pseudomedieval fiction having a prevailing atmosphere of mystery and terror. It is called Gothic because of its imaginative impulse was drawn from medieval buildings and ruins (Gothic Novel). As for the genre of horror novel, literary historian J. A. Cuddon defines it as a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing (Cuddon, 11.).
So, we may see that the common feature for both these genres is the atmosphere of fear and terror, which is created with the help of setting. Therefore these two issues are of higher importance in one of the most popular horror stories ever Dracula. First for the creation of such an atmosphere was used the setting, which itself plays an important role in the novel. The story begins in the old and gloomy castle in the Carpathians, Transylvania. That is the main character of the novel Jonathan Harker describes this place as a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the sky (Stoker, 10).
On his way to the castle Johnathan heard different strange noises, such a howling of wolves and dogs - a long, agonized wailing, as if from fear and at the first howl the horses began to strain and rear... as shivered and sweated as though after a runaway from sudden fright (Stoker, 8). All these descriptions serve for the creation of the atmosphere of fear and terror and even the main character, who was not inclined to believe the superstitions, started feeling scared. What is more, the action is happening at night, when it is dark outside. Therefore, we see that from the very first pages of the text gloomy expectations of the readers are provoked.
Rather gloomy were the insides of Draculas house as well. Moreover, describing the Count himself, the author mentions that he was extremely pale, and the nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point and adds as the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me (Stoker, 12). Due to all this naturalistic depiction, the reader may well understand the feelings of Johnathan and guess what kind of person the Count actually is.
Except for the castle, there are quite vivid descriptions of the nature of Transylvania, such as the growing twilight seemed to merge into one dark mistiness the gloom of the trees or There were dark, rolling clouds overhead, and in the air the heavy, oppressive sense of thunder (Stoker, 10). As the reader may notice, there is a great use of the words indicating darkness and gloom all over the way.
Further descriptions include dark and stormy nights, lack of sunlight and too much moonlight, the use of din light. Other important details which serve for the creation of the atmosphere are rusty hinges, which make the reader understand what kind of the place the setting of the novel is. The narrator Jonathan Harker keeps repeating in his diary how frighten he is, which also conveys the idea of constant terror that lives in Draculas castle and the outskirts of his home.
All the mentioned elements put together create the atmosphere of fear and suspense from the very beginning of the novel and throughout the whole story. Thus the setting has a very important role in creating the gloomy atmosphere of the story and may even be called one of the protagonists of the novel.
Cuddon, J A. The Penguin Book of Horror Stories. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1984. Print.
"Gothic Novel | Britannica.com." Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.
Stoker, Bram, and Edward Gorey. Dracula. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996. Print.
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