Having said that “Gothic literature is hard to define” there are many recognisable tropes which crop up again and again –
- Madness – and confusion over what is real or unreal
- Frame Narratives, again confusion over what is real, piecing together rumour, folklore, local history, diaries, letters.
- Dreams and Nightmares
- The Church
- Corrupt Churchmen
- Witchcraft, Magic and Occultism
- The Aristocracy
- Death and the afterlife
Other things to look out for when reading Gothic Literature-
- The suggestion of a tall tale, many Gothic stories use a frame narrative, with someone using notebooks, letters and verbal rumours to construct the story.
- Look at the conclusions of the stories. Often, sympathetic or innocent characters are killed off (Lucy Westenra in Dracula). Evil characters may come to a sticky end (Ambrosio in The Monk). Or the story may be left somewhat open-ended (The Monster in Frankenstein is left walking the Arctic wasteland).
- There is not necessarily an epiphany, redemption or catharsis in Gothic tales, they sometimes stray from this classical model (The Bloody Countess – Alejandra Pizarnik – 1968).
- Look at attitudes towards Religion
- Look at the role of Women
- Think about deviance from social norms, are any of the characters “loners” or “outsiders”?