Stories of the gothic fiction genre first began to be written in the late 18th century to the early 19th century, the genre was very popular from the 1760’s through to the 1820’s. Famous authors from this time include Mary Shelley, whom wrote Frankenstein. However the genre of gothic fiction is still popular today, which is shown by famous authors such as Stephen King, that have written many stories within the gothic fiction genre.
Gothic Fiction is mostly considered to be horror writing, with tales of murder and mystery, to scare the reader and often have supernatural links or instances. The supernatural instances are often reflected within the conventions of gothic fiction, usually the “evil” characters have a “supernatural” appearance. The conventions of gothic fiction are; Isolation, Setting and Atmosphere, Superstition, Character and Good versus Evil. The two stories that these conventions were investigated in were “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and “The Vampire Of Kaldenstein” by Frederick Cowles.
The convention of Isolation plays a big part in stories of the Gothic Fiction Genre, the main character, or the “hero” of the story is often either emotionally (“not a particularly sociable kind of person” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein. ) or physically (“… wandering the more remote parts of Europe” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein. ) isolated from other people, sometimes both. This is the case in Frankenstein, he is both physically and emotionally isolated when he is working on his creature, and he does this again when he begins work on the second creature (“… I told Clerval I wished to make the tour of Scotland alone…
I may be absent for a month or two, but do not interfere with my motions… ” – Frankenstein), however in The Vampire Of Kaldenstein, although the character leaves to go without his friend he is not so emotionally isolated, it is more a case of physical isolation. This isolation from other people often begins to cause a flaw within the “hero” of the story, as when they are not around people they begin to believe that it does not matter what they do because no-one will find out. This is well represented in Frankenstein, where Victor creates his Creature and when he leaves to begin work on his second creature.
Both the “hero” of Frankenstein and The Vampire Of Kaldenstein, have a major flaw, as is often the way with the Gothic Fiction Genre. In these two stories, both the heroes ignore warnings; Frankenstein is warned by his teacher not to carry on his research into “creating life” or “blurring the line between life and death” (“Life and Death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through… ” – Frankenstein) and in The Vampire Of Kaldenstein the hero ignores warning to stay away from the old castle in which the vampire lives (“… ‘the man that has lived in them for three hundred years?
‘ I laughed” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein). The actions of the characters are also often influenced by the setting and the atmosphere around them. And the actions of the characters can often affect the atmosphere, they can create a more fearful atmosphere by being afraid themselves (“repeated the priest with a tremor in his voice” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein), the characters can also often create a mysterious atmosphere (“They seemed morose and unresponsive and I had the impression that they shared some dread secret” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein).
The setting in Gothic Fiction is often an isolated area, and the buildings and furniture are often run down (“a small church… sadly in need of repair” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein). The buildings are often large and imposing so to add another element of fear. These buildings often include churches (“a church, Romanesque in type” – The Vampire OF Kaldenstein), with graveyards, representing good, within an evil surrounding. The buildings are often scattered with superstitious and religious objects (“…
a table above which hung a wooden crucifix” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein), which people believe will protect them from evil. The cross is often used, both as a crucifix and as a sign made by humans, in Gothic Fiction, as a way people try to protect themselves (“Some made the sign of the cross” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein) These superstitions often begin as rumours and soon become rules by which the people live. These superstitious rules are the character’s ways of combating evil with good. Good versus evil; this is one of the most important conventions of gothic fiction, and links to all of the other conventions.
Religious buildings and people such as churches, are usually symbols of good (“… when a priest came in through a side door… and at once gave me a friendly greeting” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein). Whereas buildings and space below ground are associated with evil, often representing that going underground and deeper are moving closer to Hell. These underground areas are often where evil is found (“We have certain underground apartments, and his excellency uses one as his bed-chamber” – The Vampire Of Kaldenstein).
These evil characters often have an “unnatural” and “supernatural” appearance (“a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature… ” – Frankenstein). All of the conventions of gothic fiction are linked and run into each other, and they are all used often together, to create fear, and to scare the reader.