Juliet D'cruz

Development of the Gothic Novels

Novels saw their rise as late as the eighteenth century. In the earlier times, drama was at a rise due to its widespread popularity in the Elizabethan era. Later when more literary forms were given impetus in literature, novels saw their development. The four pillars of Novels namely Tobias Smollett, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, and Lawrence Sterne, facilitated the development of the picaresque form of novel. Later on, adventure novels were written like Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. 

Thereafter novels did not look back and kept on rising. They rose to further prominence in the Victorina era and thereafter when the novelists chose their subject matters in order to bring out the realities of society to the people. Jane Austen earlier wrote under a pen name and tried to acquaint the readers with the social condition of her era where women were just considered as wives and nothing else. 

The sole purpose of all the mothers was to get their daughters married to a secure man so that they earn a respectable position in society. Nothing called ambition existed for women in the era. That is what Austen has served to tell its readers through her various novels, predominantly Pride and Prejudice. Charles Dickens used his novels to highlight the political, social and cultural aspects of his society to the people. 


His Great Expectations is a prominent example of what we say is a subtle satire at the social condition. Then comes his Oliver Twist and Tale of Two Cities, which brings, in the most vivid sense, the concepts of Victorian morality and the Victorian Compromise. Similarly, many other novelists served the purpose of intimating their audience about the prevalent conditions in the society so that they are well acquainted with what is going around them. The Bronte sisters came up with their own concepts of Gothic novels and offered the readers something new to read along with acquainting them with the social condition. 

The modernist novelist changed their style of writing absolutely. For them, individuality became more important and thus they focused on one’s individual self. They employed a new technique of stream of consciousness in their works wherein the thought process or the interior monologue of a character was used to move the plot and acquaint the readers with other characters. And that is how the novel keeps on developing till today. Among all these novels, the most fascinating ones were the Gothic novels. 

Gothic novels trace their origin and development to a very different source and thus it becomes important to understand them so that students can work upon their literature assignments, research paper writings and case studies without needing any assignment help.

The word Gothic was originally used to refer to the Goths who were an early Germanic tribe. Later on, the term went on to signify Germanic and then medieval. Today Gothic architecture denotes the medieval form of architecture which is characterized by the use of the high pointed arch and vault, intricate recesses and flying buttresses, which were prominent in the Western Europe between the 12th and the 16th century. 

The Gothic novel or specifically the Gothic romance is a fiction written in the form of prose the origin of which can be credited to Horace Walpole’s ‘the castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story’. The subtitle itself denotes the setting of the novel in the Middle Ages and flourished through the 19th century. 

A few writers in this genre followed the example of Walpole by setting their stories in the medieval period while the others set them in a Catholic country which was either Spain or Italy. The locale chosen was often a gloomy castle that was furnished with subterranean passages, dungeons, and sliding panels. The most typical story in this category was of a beautiful heroine facing sufferings imposed upon her by a cruel and lustful villain. 

These stories also made abundant use of ghosts, mysterious disappearances and other such supernatural and sensational occurrences. In a few novels such supernatural occurrences ultimately had a natural explanation for them. 

The writers use such a setting in order to evoke chilling terror among his readers, by exploiting a variety of horrors and mystery. Today many of these novels are read mainly as period pieces but the best of them opened up to fiction trying to evoke the creative sense of the reader and the writer along with rendering a mystery upon the former. Prominent examples in this category are William Beckford’s Vathek, Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and the like. Jane Austen too tried her hand in the field although she made a good-humored fun of the more decorous instances of the Gothic Novel, in her Northanger Abbey

The term has also been used to refer to somethings that was different from the earlier romances in terms of the exotic setting they employed, rather these novels used brooding atmospheres of terror and gloom and represented certain macabre and uncanny events and dealt often with aberrant psychological states. Mary Shelley’s remarkable work Frankenstein found a place in this category. Later on, the Bronte sisters used the term to a much more refined sense and employed it in their works- Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Charles Dickens too tried his hand in this category with the episode of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Several critics have also drawn their attention to the many women writers in this category and have explained the mode as the result of the suppression of women or else as a challenge to the male dominance and the gender hierarchy. The spread of these novels soon covered the entire world and America too saw its development at the hands of writers like Edgar Allan Poe.

Therefore, within no time, gothic novels became a category of fiction that attracted audiences of all types and the elements of mystery offered them something new to read about. These were a few points on the Gothic novels that could assist students in research paper writings or assignment help on the subject. 

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