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Gothic Fiction: Selected Readings

NoveList

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Project Gutenberg

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Reading Suggestions

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Henry James reportedly told Bernard Shaw, “The imagination has a life of its own”. In The Turn of the Screw, James’ writing shows us how much power our imagination has over the rest of the brain. A governess starts her new job taking care of two orphan children that live with their uncle. The governess sees two ghosts; a male and a female and she believes that they are after the children. Henry James’ novella keeps the reader on the edge of the seat while following the governess around, trying to unravel the mystery of the haunted house.

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Goodman Brown has an errand to complete one night in Puritan Massachusetts.  Ignoring his wife’s pleas, he heads off into the woods.  During his walk, he meets a mysterious stranger.  They walk and talk together, but the reader knows that something is not right with Young Goodman Brown’s companion.  They encounter other townspeople along the way, but instead of putting the reader at ease, it only makes the reader more suspicious.  Strange events occur that night and when Young Goodman Brown wakes up the next day, he is not sure whether it was a dream or if his experience was real.  Brown becomes distrustful of all of those around him. 

  

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

No self-respecting list of gothic fiction excludes this story.  Often called haunting and disturbing, The Yellow Wallpaper is full of gothic elements.  Both men and women love this tale, about a woman that is confined to a room covered in yellow wallpaper.  As the story progresses, the reader learns more and more about the woman and why she is in the room of yellow wallpaper.  The narrative is reminiscent of a diary entry.  The reader follows the narrator “down the rabbit hole” and the reader is never the same.  Many times, The Yellow Wallpaper is accompanied by other documents, including an essay by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about the narrator’s experience.  These documents make The Yellow Wallpaper even more interesting to read.

 

 

 

 The Shining by Stephen King

Some of Stephen King’s work is horror, but The Shining is definitely gothic.  This story slowly unfolds.  Even though the pace is slow, the reader is engrossed because King immediately gives the reader the impression that something very bad is going to happen to this family.  The plot is that a family of three; father, mother and young son, are going to be caretakers for a hotel in the winter.  This hotel is located in the mountains and is inaccessible during the winter.  Seems perfect for the father who is trying to write a book to be secluded in the mountains but what they don’t know, is that the hotel is not empty.  This book was made into a popular movie starring Jack Nicholson.

 

 

 

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

This book starts in an interesting way.  Most books about vampires do not immediately tell you that a character is a vampire, but this one day.  Interview with a Vampire is exactly that; an interview of a vampire’s lifetime experiences being recorded by a journalist.  We learn how the vampire Louis became a vampire, his life as a human, and his time with his maker, Lestat.  Anne Rice’s style of writing makes the reader feel that this all entirely plausible and that the reader really is reading about the experiences of a vampire.  But just because the reader already knows that Louis is a vampire does not mean that the book does not have any surprises.

Subject Guide