The concepts of terror and horror are key factors in the Fantastic and Gothic novel. This literary genre appeared with Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1765 and then flourished until 1830; it mainly developed during the historical period of the Enlightenment and can be seen as an alternative to the predominance of the aesthetics of probability, rationalism and utility, trying to expend imagination. The uncertain terrors in the books make the reader an active participant, like the characters, trying to understand unbelievable facts.
We often confuse the two terms of terror and horror, because they are often linked; but there are subtle differences between these two states, and that is the reason why we have first of all to define these two words before analysing their role in the three novels.Terror is characterised by obscurity, it can be defined as an overpowering fear, a feeling of dread and anticipation that usually occurs before something frightening is seen or experienced. It is a mental state. Horror is an intense and painful feeling of repugnance or dislike, with the idea of a shock when one faces something horrible, a displays of atrocity; we often talk about horror when the dreadful experience has already occurred. It refers to more physical effects of fears. To further analyse the role of these psychological modes in the novels, I will put The Castle of Otranto, Frankenstein and Dracula in relationship with one another.
[...] That is why in the end, Frankenstein has to admit his mistake before dying, the only way to make the monster disappear, and it leads to an differentiation of the self from the other. Of course, as a reader, we are also left with the questions: who is the real monster in the story? Are Frankenstein and his creature alike? Indeed, if the monster and its awful physical appearance is the main source of terror in the book, the one which still remains a very frightening character in popular culture, we have to notice that the protagonist, the scientist himself has the responsibility of such a creature. [...]
[...] The Castle of Otranto, Frankenstein and Dracula are good illustrations of the genre, each pointing at a specific problem of conscious, a specific fear, and expressing taboos through their monsters. The reader has to face emotions or frightful events which make in doubt, like the collapse of the mental faculties, the encounter of creatures from the past or a threat to the imagination. Both terror and horror confront the imagination with its limits, either by suggestion (terror) or excessive visualisation (horror): conventional reason has difficulties to respond to these things conceived by imagination, and that is what makes the genre so rich. [...]
[...] The Castle of Otranto, Frankenstein and Dracula have common elements, or what we can call 'Gothic clichés', to create a tense atmosphere. Architecture seems to be one of the first of these elements; indeed, in Dracula and The Castle of Otranto, the building itself is threatening, and can be considered as a full character and a place where fearful things can hide. Their structure is impressive, with huge rocks, they are always isolated (like in Dracula, p.48: castle was built on the corner of a great rock, so that on three sides it was quite impregnable [ . [...]
[...] In The Castle f Otranto, the horror which is used is the uncanny horror, the monster represents the return of the repressed, all which is long now forgotten and ejected from consciousness Freud in his essay The Uncanny, wrote : repressed always returns” and this novel is a good illustration of this assertion. There is not one monster but parts of a monstrous creature which appear regularly throughout the story. It is an element from the past which comes back to have its revenge and it results in a mix between past and present, a supernatural mix punctuated with fantastic elements. [...]
[...] In this confused environment, the protagonist doubts, and can't even trust himself, rationalism and fantastic begin to struggle; we notice throughout our reading of both Frankenstein and Dracula that at several times the protagonists set rhetorical questions, that is the point where they begin to weaken, to envisage non- rational explanations to the events. Another philosopher, Jung, built a theory claiming that terror is linked to the idea of darkness: he called this phenomenon the Shadow. This term of 'Shadow' is to be read both literally and figuratively; indeed, the darkness in a room for example can be a source of terror because we can't see well, we can be lost and afraid of what we don't recognise, of what we don't know: the shadow is only the outlines we see in the dark. [...]
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