ENG 125: Introduction to Literature
Instructor: Susan Turner – Conlon, MFA
November 1, 2010
Horror and romance are often the two compelling genres which receive the greatest response from entertainment lovers. Fans of both genres enjoy the overwhelming emotions experienced. The feelings of fear, excitement, oppression, humiliation, darkness, gloominess, and suspense fuel the psychological side of individuals. These feelings are not just found in movies and music but are found in literary works as well. In literature, this is referred to gothic literature. Gothic literature is defined as elements of horror and romance (Dunn, 2010, para 1). Gothic literature or sometimes referred as gothic fiction begin in 1700’s with the first novel written by Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (Dunn, 2010). By the 1800’s this form of writing style was evident in American writers. I will examine and contrast the imagery and style of writings from Edgar Allan Poe, Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner. Three writers with similar style yet distinctive all share one common thread: social abjection of the main character. This form of ostracism has had numerous negative effects on the character who is the unfortunate victim of the twisted thoughts of the author. Gothic fiction spun several sub-categories of modern detective fiction and southern gothic (DiYanni, 2007). Despite his gothic fiction fame, Edgar Allen Poe actually began his author hood as a detective fiction writer. He’s even been called the creator of detective fiction. Strangely the detective stories he wrote were less about solving a crime than the grisly manner in which the crime occurred. Consequently his suspense and terror were quintessential themes in his earlier works, keeping his readers in awe. His writings were known as psychological studies of guilt, obsession and compulsion (DiYanni, 2007, pg 133). Although he spun several detective stories, his later works contained elements of dark, gloom, and suspense, even greater than his detective stories. His stories began to traverse genres. They became part of the Gothic fiction. The narrators in his stories possess several psychological issues, ranging from depression to borderline insanity. In The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe’s most famous poem that propelled him to instant success, the narrator is losing him mind. Aside from the earlier mentioned literary elements, Poe’s style of writing also contains themes of death, confusion, inner turmoil, shocking and grotesque matter. His writings were known as psychological studies of guilt, obsession and compulsion (DiYanni, 2007, pg 133). It can be said these were feelings he carried throughout his life and carrying it over in his writing. Further, the life of an author is reflective in their writings.
Flannery O’Conner known for her southern roots, storytelling and Christian upbringing was influential in the southern gothic genre. Her short stories are filled with good nature story telling with a tragic twist on the main character. “The typical O’Connor story often begins with a comic protagonist who indulges in fantasies of moral or social superiority or has a false sense of the certainty of things (DiYanni, 2007, pg 186).” Being diagnosed with lupus later in life and her strict Roman Catholic upbringing prepared her for a life of pain, struggles and hard work. This is shown in her character development. The short story Good Country People by Flannery O’Conner features a central character Joy who’s anything but joyful. She has had a painful childhood which caused her to turn her adulthood in to a shield of education, anger and bitterness. There is so much anger in her she changes her name to Hulga It doesn’t help she has a disability she lost her leg in a childhood accident and she using the disability a source of her pain and anger. A secondary character is a “bible” salesman who falls for Hugla. He breaks down all the anger with a web of seduction and really works his charm on Hulga. Once Hulga defenses are down he reveals himself for who he really is, a con artist. He steals her artificial leg and leaves her speechless. Telling stories is one of the mainstays of southern life. O’Connor was called “the unique literary voices emerge from the 1950s (pg 185).” Her short stories are typical gothic fiction reflective of violence, grotesque, darkness, pervision. William Faulkner is another southern gothic writer and one of Flannery O’Conner influence.
No formal education or a high school, William Faulkner
Dunn, Richard J. "Gothic novel." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2010. Web. 19 Oct. 2010 DiYanni, R. (2007). Literature, reading fiction, poetry, and drama (6th ed.). New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc