Gothic Short Stories Test Dates: 19th


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Gothic Short Stories Test


19th century = the Gothic movement

1835 = Young Goodman Brown by Hawthorne

1839 = The Fall of the House of Usher by Poe

1846 = The Cask of Amontillado by Poe

1890 = Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Bierce

1892 = The Yellow Wallpaper by Gilman

1930 = A Rose for Emily by Faulkner

Gothic Literature:

  • The word “Gothic” can apply to any literature, art or architecture which attempts to disturb or unsettle the orderly, “civilized” course of society. Gothic works probe the dark side of humanity or unveil socio-cultural anxieties.

  • The gothic movement originated in the 19th century in response to the rapid social changes occurring in the nation. These changes caused anxiety in America, nurturing a gothic sensibility in literature.

  • Nineteenth century gothic writers challenged the cheery political assumptions of their time by the staging of characters and situations that seem impossible or out of place in an America of autonomy, optimism, and freedom.

  • Such cheery assumptions stemmed from Emerson’s belief that man is good and that he is the keeper of truth.
  • Gothic writers also challenged the belief in humanity’s limitless potential and focus on the present and future

  • These gothic writers urge us to ask:

  • To what extent does it seem within our power to realize American ideals of the pursuit of happiness, freedom, equality and justice?

  • What power, if any, rules us?

  • How much are we in control of ourselves?

  • How well do we even know ourselves?

  • To what extent can we ever be sure of anything?

  • Is truth ever attainable?

  • American gothic writers question and analyze rather than offer helpful answers. Many challenge the assumption that America stands as the unique moral and social guiding light for the world.

  • Gothic writers addressed key nineteenth-century cultural trends, such as westward expansion, technological and scientific progress, romantic individualism, the cult of true womanhood, and the debate over slavery and abolition.

  • Gothic writers explore and critique the ideas of rationality, self-reliance, free will, and the self-made man expressed by Franklin and Emerson

Characteristics, conventions and elements of the gothic:

  • Hero- usually mysterious, though not "good" in the conventional sense, he is usually charismatic.

  • Setting- often isolated, bleak, and grandiose; employs castles, secret passageways, decaying places; landscapes usually signify cultural realities or psychological and emotional states of being.

  • Action- dramatic, disturbing, sinister, even violent.

  • Mood- of decay, doom and gloom.

  • Language- suggestive, exaggerated, emotional.
  • Plot and Atmosphere- emphasized over character development.

  • Supernatural- uses elements of the supernatural; delights in the mysterious and unexplainable.

  • Gothic object- the work may include a "gothic object" that becomes all consuming for the character. Gothic objects can range from a scarlet letter A, to an eye, to a tarn

  • Subject matter- may be concerned with sadistic, masochistic impulses, obsessions and the such.

  • The Past- often, gothic literature is concerned with the past and family genealogy.

  • Representation of the human body- the human body is often depicted vulnerable and/or monstrous.


Allegory: a narrative in which the persons, objects, or actions of the story have meaning outside of the narrative itself. They are symbols of abstract qualities

Ambiguity: doubtfulness or uncertainness of interpretation;

  • This describes most gothic literature because it rarely presents a clear moral or message; instead it seems intended to be open to multiple meanings

Doppelganger/double: a living person who is the exact replica of an individual;

  • Its existence reflects the gothic believe that we play a double role in life – one role is the true self (natural) while the other self is that which we show society (culture)

Dramatic monologue: a composition, oral or written, presenting the discourse of one speaker only; this technique is good for showing psychological disintegration

First person narrative: narratives told from the perspective of the speaker


Gothic tale: a literature that conveys a general mood of decay and that probes the dark side of humanity

Grotesque: the representation of unusual things, bizarre, unnatural, and freakish; depicts the world as distanced from everyday reality

Interior monologue: a discourse that records the internal, emotional experience of the character/narrator

Irony --

Verbal: a discrepancy between what the speaker says and what he means

Dramatic: a discrepancy between what the speaker says and what the writer means

Situational: a discrepancy between what the speaker/character expected and what actually happens

Persona: a literary mask, meaning a “second self” created by the author for telling a story

Pseudonym: meaning fake name; it refers to the pen name of a write

Unreliable narrator: a narrator who may be in error in his understanding or report of things and who consequently leaves the reader without guidelines essential for making judgments about characters and actions with the assurance that his conclusions are those intended y the author

Impunity = without punishment or consequences

Connoisseur = an expert from experience

Motley = varied patterns and colors

Amontillado = specialized Spanish sherry

Roquelaire = cloak with hood

Catacomb = burial ground

Immolation = sacrifice

Redress (unredressed) = avenge (unavenged)

Fancy = imagination

Sentience = inanimate objects that have a conscious

Tarn = lake

Incubus = evil spirit

Fissure = thin crack

In media res = in the middle of things

Uncanny = inexplicable

The Stories

Young Goodman Brown: Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Allegory:

  • Young Goodman Brown = the every man

  • Faith (his wife) = his faith

-Young, innocent, naïve

-It gets destroyed because he’s too rigid

  • Salem = the end result of Puritan belief; the worst that can happen

-Associated with witch trials and recalls the horror of Puritan history

  • The story is a criticism of Puritan ideas

  • The plot:

  • Young Goodman Brown has made an appointment with the devil. His wife Faith begs him to not go, but he tells her that saying her prayers will make sure she’s safe. When the devil sees him, he said that he’s late.

  • He’s hypocritical- he doesn’t think he’s as bad as the others, but he wanted to meet the devil

  • He believes that going through the motions will save him

  • He believes his family would never sin, but the devil tells him that he used to meet them all the time. The devil says he is also been there all along with many others in town. For example, Goody Cloyse is a witch and her broomstick isn’t working. The minister and the deacon float around and talk about a woman and man who are going to be initiated.

  • Everybody has an interior life that Brown didn’t expect.

  • Goodman Brown starts to doubt his faith, but still has faith that faith will carry him.
  • He loses his faith when he sees Faith’s pink ribbon (implies Faith is flying). He runs around the woods and he is the scariest and the most horrific one.

  • He goes to the initiation ceremony and sees the whole town there.

  • **Every individual is a sinner**

  • The devil says: everyone is here, everyone you thought was good and holier that you. You will see sin everywhere and root it out. Man is depraved.

  • When he died, nobody had anything nice to say

  • Significance:

  • Whether he experienced it or not is irrelevant, the impact is important.

  • Everything becomes evil – he can only see the evil, not the good.

  • This makes him become a miserable, isolated person without the companionship, trust, joy, and intimacy of life.

  • He cannot accept a more complex view of human nature.

  • Criticism of Puritan faith

  • Criticizing the narrow, simplistic Puritan view

  • Doesn’t equip you with what you need to face a complex world

  • They’re hypocritical

The Cask of Amontillado: Edgar Allan Poe


  • Carnival season: party, frenzy; before Lent when we’re reminded that we’re mortal and we will die

  • Italian catacombs: burial places underground

  • Montresor wants revenge on Fortunato

  • He cannot get caught (if he pays the price for his own revenge, then he hasn’t really gotten revenge on Fortunato)

  • Fortunato must know that it is Montresor who is getting revenge on him

  • Unreliable narrator: the narrator’s stated motive is not authentic
  • He says he wants revenge because Fortunato insulted him

  • Chivalric code: defend your name

    • Fortunato is well liked, respected, and feared

    • His weak spot is his pride in his knowledge and connoisseurship in wine

    • Montresor says that he’s also a connoisseur and buys lots of wine  he’s jealous of his money and reputation

  • Montresor knows how to manipulate human nature

  • He plays on Fortunato’s pride

    • He appeals to his ego

    • He always mentions “Luchesi” whenever he begs Fortunato to leave because he knows that Fortunato’s pride will win

    • He gets Fortunato drunk

  • He knows how to manipulate his servants

    • He told them that he would be out all night partying and ordered them not to leave, and they left and he had the house to himself. This was his master plan all along- to get the house to himself.

  • The Montresors were a great family  implies that they are not as prosperous now

  • Their motto = nobody insults me without impunity

  • He gives Fortunato a sign that he’s a mason: it’s a trowel (bricklayer’s tool)

  • This is a sign of what Montresor is going to do

  • Fortunato is taken aback and shocked, but he keeps going on

  • He chains Fortunato up and starts building a brick wall to close the chamber

  • He stops when he hears his screams. He says it’s because he wants to enjoy the sound.

  • Suggestion: is he spooked? Or feeling guilty?

  • He hesitates and trembles

  • Suggestion: he’s feeling fear and remorse

  • The last brick is hard to put in

  • Suggestion: he doesn’t want to seal him in

  • He throws a torch into the chamber to take out all the oxygen. His heart grows sick from the dampness of the catacombs (according to him)

  • Suggestion: he’s making excuses – he feels sick about what he just did

  • Fortunato’s arrogance brings him down

  • He’s dressed like a jester  like a fool

  • He keeps drinking the wine

  • Montresor is a conniving coward and an agent of death

  • He gets Fortunato drunk and keeps dropping “Luchesi” to lure him in  he’s a coward

  • Wears a cap  he doesn’t want to be recognized

  • Wears a Roquelaire  suggests he is the grim reaper

  • Knows how to manipulate people  knows human nature

  • Montresor is confessing, but he’s also boasting (not showing remorse)

  • At the beginning, he addresses “You”  it’s a confession

  • He gets away with it legally, but he can’t rest in peace.

  • Poe ultimately is posing a question: Can you ever commit a crime without impunity?

  • He’s writing in 1846, pre-civil warHe’s writing to America: can we do evil & not pay for it?

The Fall of House of Usher: Edgar Allan Poe

  • Characteristics of a Gothic Story:

  1. Symbolism of the house

(2) name for a family

  • **The house symbolizes the family of Usher!**

  • The condition of the house parallels the condition of the family

-old, looks dilapidated, stones are falling apart, but the masonry is intact so the house looks stable

  • The fall of the “house”  the fall of the building and of the family (due to their isolation)

  1. Unreliable narrator

  • The surroundings impact him emotionally

  • Highly susceptible to his environment

-oppressively dark, heavy; dusk, evening; melancholy, gloomy  his spirit got gloomy and depressed

-just being inside the house increased his eerie feelings; normal and ordinary things inside the house stir him up

-just watching his sister depresses him

  • He doesn’t know how or why, but he just knows that he’s affected by his surroundings

  1. Social criticism of aristocracy/nobility/elite society

  • It’s a direct line – the family haven’t intermarried or brought in new people to their family

  • The family has failed to bring in new ideas; they’re totally isolated they will ultimately fail

  1. Journey into the unconscious – creation of a dream world

  • Nightmare-ish world – it occurs at night, it all disappears at the end, like it never happened (like a dream)

  1. Use of a double
  • A double or a doppelganger is the idea that people lead double lives: there is the public appearance, but also the private, sinister interior that is kept hidden but emerges at night

  • Doubles in the story: the narrator and Usher  share terror and fear; both become crazy

  • Usher =nervous, tremulous, highly sensitive to the world around him; he’s a slave to fear; he’s superstitious

  • He admits that he is totally connected with Usher’s subconscious, loses control, is going crazy, becomes a slave to fear as well, and blames it on his surroundings just like Usher

  • The things in the environment affect the family and the narrator

  • Once Usher dies and the doubles collapse, he’s free to leave it all behind – the double dies before it all disappears

  1. Impact of fear on a person

  • Emotions can surpass rationality

  • The facts: after Madeline dies, they bury her in their family tomb where there is no oxygen, and no light. The door is immensely heavy, and they screwed on the coffin lid.

  1. Fiction + imagination = power

  • Gothic stories raise questions about the power of the imagination

  • They hear the same sounds in the story in the house

  • Poe gives us evidence that it’s impossible for Madeline to break out, but we still believe it

  • He reads the “Mad Trist” to Usher  they hear the same sounds in the story in the house

  • The narrator is in this imaginary state which he totally believes in, and as a result, we believe in it too

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Ambrose Bierce

  • Characteristics of a Gothic Story:

  • Unreliable narrator

  • Journey into the unconscious / creation of a dream world

  • Power of the imagination – part 3

  • Criticism of the South: critiques the narrator’s allusions of war as glorious and honorable and his allusions of heroism

-His desire to be a hero leads to his downfall

-The author implies that there are no heroes in war – just death

  • The Story:

Part 1

  • It’s wartime: civilians are soldiers, involves the Civil War

  • Bird’s eye view: he’s reporting an objective, impersonal account of the “occurrence”

  • He’s trivial and insignificant; Farquhar is a nobody and doesn’t matter anymore (unlike what Farquhar believed)

  • It’s a solemn occasion, the soldiers are respectful and follow war etiquette

  • We get clues about the man about to be hanged:

-He is a civilian, a wealthy planter

-He’s not a crook or criminal: he’s a gentleman

  • Point of view SHIFTS to the eyes of the person being hanged

  • His senses are amplified – he can hear the tick of his watch and it hurts his ears

  • He goes through the possibilities of escape in his mind

  • Wishful thinking drives his imagination

Part 2

  • He’s a good Southern civilian but for some reason, he couldn’t serve in the army

  • Farquhar’s attitude towards war:

    • To serve in the army is a glorious thing

    • War is an opportunity for someone to distinguish themselves, an opportunity that he’s is waiting for
    • He can do anything because all is fair in love and war

  • The soldier states the facts and the consequences of interfering at the bridge  we find out that he was a spy from the North pretending to be a Confederate

  • Farquhar is eager and goes after a plan to become a hero  he probably tried to blow up the bridge

Part 3

  • Bierce gives us facts that makes it impossible for the whole sequence to happen

  • Focuses on the pain and physical sensation because Farquhar is unconscious and incapable of thought  the SHIFT occurs when “the power of thought was restored”

  • He has superhuman strength: dodges bullets, has supernatural senses, stays underwater for a long time, gets out of the tope

  • At the end, his neck breaks, and he dies

  • **In that split nanosecond, he sees himself as a hero**

  • Bierce’s message:

  • Heroism lies in the imagination and the mind

  • The nature of glorious ideals of war and heroism are false, fake illusions and are crushed by reality

The Yellow Wallpaper: Charlotte Perkins Gilman


  1. Women’s role in society

  • Women are treated as children:

  • Not allowed to make their own decisions, not allowed to exercise freedom, can’t provide for themselves or others, are coddled by adults, treated as insignificant

  • Examples: she’s not allowed to take care of her baby, not taken seriously by her husband John, he is totally in control,

  • The nursery  creates an analogy of women to children
  • In society, when women are treated as kids, they regress and crazy

  • At the end, she’s creeping (which is a pre-crawling motion)

  1. Importance of the imagination (as an outlet) vs. pragmatic, scientific

  • You must be able to exercise your imaginative and creative side. You can’t control it with the practical, pragmatic, scientific side.

  • She likes to write, but they try to stop her from writing

  • John represents a male-controlled society

  • John and her brother are doctors: they symbolize the scientificIRONY: the people trying to help her are destroying her because they’re not listening to her

  • If repressed, the imagination will emerge in other unexpected ways

  • She goes crazy and imagines that the wallpaper is alive

  • The wallpaper symbolizes her emotional condition and increasing insanity

  • At first the wallpaper is fuzzy, but then she starts to see shapes and it comes alive – she lets out her insane side – she sees it moving and thinks it smells

  1. The enabling nature of work

  • Work gives you a purpose, a meaning in life, a reason to live, and makes you productive

  • She wants to be able to write

  • While working, you contribute and become important to society

  • While she’s not, she’s isolated from society, and is useless and a burden

  1. Criticism of society
  • **Society is male-dominated, inefficient, fails to acknowledge creativity and is too focused on being pragmatic

  • Attacks male culture and the medical profession

Gothic Elements

  1. Unreliable narrator- she could be totally crazy

  2. Double- herself: for her real self to come out, she had to go insane

  3. Interior monologue – the story is filtered through her consciousness, through her mind

  4. Setting – she is in a room that used to be a nursery which john keeps locked.

  • Enhances the metaphor that women are treated like children. John is in charge to get her well, but he also keeps her in a prison

A Rose for Emily: William Faulkner

Important Motifs:

  • Rose = the author is offering condolences to Emily – he feels empathy and sympathy

  • Narrator = probably the town–they’re spectators: have observed her, but still don’t know her

  • Emily, like the house, has shut out the whole world

  • The town feels ambivalence (=mixed feelings) about her:

  • Feel sorry for her, cautious about her, afraid of her, regard her as proud, arrogant, stubborn

  • Setting = small Southern city

  • Trying to keep the past alive!

  • Clues: Confederate graves, the “Colonel” is from the Old South

  • The colonel forgives her taxes when her father dies. Her father was a dominating man who didn’t approve of anyone to marry her, so when he died she was alone. The town pities her because she became more human in their eyes.
  • The colonel passed a law requiring black women to wear aprons  conveys that they are still servants in a hierarchy that still exists

  • Ambiguity

  • Miss Emily is a mystery to us – we know she killed Homer, but we don’t know why. We can guess that he might’ve been trying to leave her and she didn’t want him to, but we don’t know her motives.


  • Miss Emily = her house

  • Surrounded by new modern stuff  South is becoming modern: gas pumps

  • Both are the last remaining symbols of old values

  • She was part of a class that was separate, privileged, and superior

  • Miss Emily = a fallen monument

  • Monuments are for remembering, honoring, glorifying

  • They feel a hereditary duty to take care of Emily

  • Just like Emily, it had its prime, but that’s over  It has fallen

  • Miss Emily = Old South

  • Just like Emily, the Old South is a burden, but they must honor it because it’s an inherited tradition that they feel obligated to honor

  • It looms large as they are trying to modernize

  • They also feel ambivalent about the Old South  they’re afraid of it but they also revere it

  • Emily and the Old South are both proud, arrogant, and stubborn and refuse to change with the times

  • Miss Emily = idol

  • Idols instill fear (just like Emily and the Old South)

  • Idols are revered, worshipped, respected, and removed (Just like the Old South and Emily)



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