Thursday, 13 October 2016

A Brief Guide to Gothic Tropes - Setting (2/3)

On Saturday, we talked about the characters of the Gothic genre. Today, we're talking about the settings. Gothic is a genre of extremes. You're sweet and naive, or evil and seductive. You're the innocent hero, or jaded and byronic. The settings are similar. Impossibly opulent, or empty. Either way, they're creepy as hell.

The Gothic Mansion

Most Gothic novels focus on the middle and upper classes, so the characters tend to live in larger than average houses. Gothic mansions come in two flavours. The first is impossibly fancy, with vaulted ceilings, intricate stonework, and chandaliers made of a thousand tiny teardrops. The second has seen better days. It belongs to a family that has fallen on hard times (relatively speaking). The paint is peeling, the windows are dirty, and there's a conspicuous lack of servants. Either way, expect gargoyles, secret passages and locked doors. It's easy to get lost in the winding corridors or the Gothic mansion. Easy, and a bad idea. You don't know what lurks at the heart of this house, or what the family patriarch is hiding in the basment...

The Gothic Castle

The Gothic mansion, but stronger. Usually belongs to the aristocracy (or a family that used to be aristocracy). There's probably a haunted suit of armour or six hanging around in the corridors. 

The Countryside

The countryside is the only place for your quintessential Gothic mansion/castle. The windswept moors, the lonely hills, the empty fields... Isolation is very important in Gothic fiction. Humans are social creatures by nature - yes, even us introverts - so there's something eerie about being in the middle of nowhere, entirely alone. In Wuthering Heights, both Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights itself stand apart from the village and each other.

The Woods

Don't go into them.

(What if -)


(But -)


(How about -)


The Monastery/Nunnery

Where the not-so-holy members of the Gothic church reside. Like the Gothic Mansion, it has tonnes of secret passages, which make it easy to hide a secret affair. You probably shouldn't break your vows though - Gothic houses of the holy tend to have hidden prisons for those who have sinned. Deep in the bowels of the earth beneath the nunnery, nobody will ever find you. And nobody will hear you scream.

The Cemetery

Where else are you going to get buried alive?

(Or dig up your lost love so you can ogle her?)

Ivy! No! You brought that scene up on badness! It didn't even happen in a cemetery!

(There was a grave. It counts.)

For the record, this, this right here, is why I do not understand the people who love Heathcliff. Of all the awful things he does, this tops the list.

The final post in this series will be up on Sunday. Come back then for a brief guide to Gothic themes.

What's the creepiest setting you've ever read about?