Gothic Excess Essay

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Gothic has been described as “excess: excess in moral terms, excess of realism into the supernatural, [and] formal excess” (Becker, 1999:1). Discuss this view of the Gothic mode in specific relation to The Castle of Otranto, and M.R. James’s stories. When Horace Walpole published his Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, in 1764, he became the first author credited with changing the meaning of the Gothic genre forever. With his tale of corrupt patriarchy filled with mystery, romance, and tragedy, Horace Walpole bridged the gap between the wantonly romantic and the excessively realistic (Scott 11); filling the space with dark settings, stark characters and tangled narratives. It was the sum of all these parts that became the formula that is still followed today by writers of the genre. This essay will outline various elements of the typical gothic novel, and the way in which they are associated with excess in the themes, characterisation, and style of writing. In doing so, the differences in the techniques used in Walpole’s novel Castle of Otranto, and M.R James’s short story Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, will be identified and discussed. The primary objective of Gothic novelists is to rouse the reader into eliciting emotional responses such as shock or fear (Hume 284). In keeping with this theory, Walpole both begins and ends Otranto with unexpected deaths that are violent in nature, and designed to shock the reader. It begins with the death of the primary antagonists son, Conrad, who is “dashed to pieces” beneath the weight of an enormous helmet directly before he is to be married (Walpole 28). The shock arises not only from the unexpectedness of the incident, seeing as it happens so early in the novel, but also from the violence and the apparently supernatural element of it. He finishes the novel with the unintentional filicide of

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