Consider the writers’ intentions in writing their Gothic stories
What is horror? Horror is a way of coming to terms with anxieties in each person and in a society as a whole.But horror also plays a role of intensifying the imagination and gives people the adrenaline rush that comes, with being scared.Several factors contribute to the creation of different emotions and feelings.
Stevenson uses a multitude of ways to give the overall effect of mystery and horror rather than a sudden, obvious indication. This reveals how Stevenson differs from previous gothic writers.
Although Stevenson may have differed from previous gothic writers he still managed to include both traditional and more modern gothic conventions. By including full moons and by exploiting the excessiveness of science Stevenson maintains the more traditional and stereotypical gothic conventions. But by conveying two different characters that are the same Stevenson is including more modern conventions by revealing that terror was created by humans and can only be ended by humans.
By using both traditional and modern conventions Stevenson is able to break boundaries by drawing on science rather than superstition but also by emphasizing that the horror experienced is in us, now. This is one of the things that need to be observed when concluding the effectiveness. Another thing to observe is when the novel was written. This greatly influences the way the novel has been written and the impact that it made on people of that time. Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde novel may not seem too terrifying now with films such as the Exorcist coming out. The Exorcist was both original and modern in terms of convention.
The Exorcist built on an idea that demons could possess individuals just like in Jekyll and Hyde where in the end Hyde possesses Jekyll permanently. This illustrates how even the most modern films copy certain aspects of Stevenson’s gothic novels to emphasize the fear being experienced. But for the people and era of that time Jekyll and Hyde was a novel to be reckoned with and was definitely a bookmark to how gothic stories should be written. The way in which it revolutionized the way that gothic novels are, in that the setting and atmosphere were different then previous gothic novels “deadly smell”.
With previous novels the only thing they needed to include was that it was dark, foggy, gloomy, isolated area that most likely contained a castle and was set in some unfamiliar part of the world like Transylvania. Jekyll and Hyde being a gothic novel included some of these but also managed to be effective in different areas. Jekyll and Hyde set their scene in a very familiar place (London), with the idea to emphasize the fear that the audience felt when reading about this tale, the way in which this was accomplished was by drawing on the frighteningly familiar rather than the absurd..
This was just one of the ways that Stevenson changed gothic books and made them into effective horror stories. However this was not the only thing which made Jekyll and Hyde an effective and daring gothic book. The anxieties that it dealt with showed people that either they were justified to feel this way or that things such as homosexuality are nothing to be feared of. The anxieties that it mentions are to do with science going too far, atheism growing and homosexuality. These all contribute to the effect of a horror novel. As Stevenson is trying to explore new ground with Jekyll and Hyde.
The first thing to notice is that the characters are described completely different from each other, as one is a Doctor in a very high place where as Hyde can be described as having “ape like fury”. By showing the immediate contrast of the two characters Stevenson creates a sense of mystery which all gothic books should have. By creating ambiguity he is trying to lead the audience of that time to the wrong conclusion so as to make sure that the his book is shocking and intelligent. These qualities both contribute to the effectiveness of horror.
However for that time the novel was nothing but a groundbreaking barrier-smashing novel at that time. Compared to some of the previous gothic novels you can tell how the genre of gothic has evolved from previous books which give everything away too easily and involve the most obvious give away (such as castles). Although this may be true for the late 1800’s the same can not be said about today. With the fame that comes along with Jekyll and Hyde the majority of people already know the story, meaning that when they read the actual novel they could be disappointed by it, due to the fact that it’s that old.
Not only this but the number of films which take the story on usually let it down meaning that the audience does not have the same respect for the novel as the people of 120 years ago did. But whether or not people respect is not the case but whether they appreciate it is. One aspect that they could have appreciated from all the gothic writers was that they all identified themselves philosophically as romantics. Stevenson among others all had interests in the wild and untamed aspects of nature and they all believed in the power of human imagination.
These thoughts lead to them becoming outsiders. These outsiders would have been appreciated because of their views were not expressed by the wider society. These views consequently were revealed in their novels. Just like another writer of the time Stroker (Dracula), they tried to perceive the main character as having an addiction to a certain drug. Whether it is blood or a concoction. Both writers attempted to give the reader a certain side of a character that had previously never been seen by audiences of the 1880’s.
Where as Stroker pointed out quite clearly who the evil demon was, Stevenson had a more suspenseful and unique style of only giving away the odd small ounce of information.I think that for his time Stevenson was quite ahead of the game with his piece Jekyll and Hyde. His attention to detail, whether it being about the atmosphere or how a man died was very unique for that time causing him to be famous for writing a novel like Jekyll and Hyde. Both the stories of Jekyll and Hyde and Dracula have certain similarities between them. Both writers pioneered in bending and breaking the rules of classic gothic horror stories.
The more traditional of these two stories is Stoker’s Dracula. Set in a dark unfamiliar setting of Transylvania, where like most gothic stories there happens to be darkness, fog, isolation and the super natural. Although both are very famous stories they differ in many ways. The story of Jekyll and Hyde is more to do with expressing different ways of really intensifying the readers, or viewers’ imagination. Where as Dracula is more to do with the traditional way of scaring people through super natural occurrences that happens in the story, but unlike Jekyll and Hyde, Dracula brings in more emotions.
These emotions of lust and love are not present in Jekyll and Hyde, where as they are a key aspect in Dracula. Another key difference that appeared in Dracula was a motive. The motive of falling in love made this man wild and crazy. Where as it can be argued that Jekyll’s motive is more to do with scientific experiments rather then emotion. But others can say that Jekyll and Hyde really has no motive to cause all of this death and suffering in the world, except for the fact that being in a high position could mean that you are suppressing your anger.
This suppression is due to the fact that Jekyll’s reputation as a doctor depends vastly on the actions that he has committed. So when his suppressed anger is let out it takes the form of Hyde. Although count Dracula is also in the same high position, his anger is not suppressed meaning that his anger is let out in arguably healthy ways. This reveals that there must be some kind of compromise between Jekyll’s lack of anger and Dracula’s excess of anger. Although in this case the writers seem to have different opinions on how to make the audience perceive their monsters, they both tried to deal with the same issues.
The main similarity between Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde is that they try and reveal the anxieties of society at that time. They both tried to illustrate science going to far, in both of their novels. The ways in which both writers accomplish this are different but effective. The reasons for revealing anxieties, was not only to make the audience feel adrenaline but also to show them that such things were ridiculous to be afraid of. These two writers were not the only ones that tried to both revolutionize and be effective. As the signalmen was wrote.
In the novel the Signalman Dickens describes the environment as having an “earthy, deadly smell”. This reveals us how like Stevenson’s book that there is a super natural aspect to the plot of the story and that this brings in a mysterious presence into the story. Which leads the audience to ask what the super natural thing is. The product of this super naturalism is ambiguity. The effectiveness of ambiguity can be seen with in all three novels, as ambiguity is made to make the reader think and try to some sort of conclusion before the plot is revealed and all is clear.
Another similarity between the characters in the play is that they are both conceived as short and hairy. This is to get the audience to imagine them having similarities to certain animals “ape like fury”. This may also illustrate another anxiety felt by society regarding people that were short, abnormal or hairy. Again this adds to the effectiveness and impact of each of the novels. Showing us how a combination of characters, plot, ambiguity and anxiety leads to the effectiveness and appeal to the audience of that era and era’s to come. Although anxiety’s and ambiguity maybe one of the many techniques for effect.
The one, which is predominant, is tension. The writers’ intentions are to use many different aspects of gothicness and expand on them, this is done so as to make audiences more vulnerable to the things around them” it was as if one had left the natural world”. All horror stories include tension so as to be affirmative that they can terrify and astound the audience in different and more realistic ways. All three novels have an essence of tension in them or else audiences may not of found them entertaining. The writers’ all include a sense of ambiguity, so to create the tension as much as possible.
On top of this they all present characters, unlike any other previously experienced, all of which have mysteriousness about them. An example of this is the Signalman. Within the Signalman the main character behaves in many paranormal ways. This suggests to the audience that he maybe suffering from either a problem regarding his eye or a problem that causes him to hallucinate the appearance of specters. Also the characteristics that I character holds also adds to both the originality and effectiveness of that character in the novels. In the Signalman the main character is portrayed as a wasted youth, student of natural philosophy .
The effect of bringing new and previously unheard of characters, both astonishes the audience as well as adds to the originality of the horror story on the whole. A crucial aspect of every gothic novel is the questions left at the end. In the case of the Signalman a quote from Colridge revealed that it was “unclear what to conclude”. I think that the unanswered questions add to the thought process that the audience must go through. This reveals how having unclear endings leads to the audience being more assertive in what to rule out and what not to.
Overall the fact that the audience has to actively think adds to the creation of tension through ambiguity. To conclude I think that the writers were all trying to adjust people’s perception of what is scary and what is not. By making the plot and features of the novels vary they have accomplished in changing people’s views and expectation, both in society and from gothic novels. Not only managing this they have also managed to ensure that a combination of features present in novels can lead to a book becoming effective.
Whether from the characters or from the tension being built up via ambiguity and other devices used to build up tension. The effect of all of these is that it takes people to a place, which they rarely visit, that place being their fears. The purpose of such novels is to make people face up to their fears, which they previously haven’t experienced or haven’t encountered. This reveals what the writers intention were to take people out of their mundane lives and surprise and shock them with their horror novels.