Gothic literature is the literatureof love and terror. This genre of fiction is considered the new literarymovement. It has many characteristics that distinguish it amongst all availablegenres in the English literature. The most significant characteristic of both,old, and new Gothic literatures is the existence of the plot. One can arguethat without the plot, Gothic literature would make no sense. Horace Walpolewas the first Gothic writer who invented the Gothic story. His first novel, The Castle of Otranto, was plotted fromthe beginning until the end. It is fair enough to say that Walpole indeed didset the standard for all of the Gothic writers who followed him.
The Castle of Otranto had the scenery,the old castle, the protagonists along with the other characters; the romance, thelust, the mystery, the crimes, and all of them took place in a perfect settingthat would bring terror the reader. In Walpole’s case, his whole storywas stimulated by a dream that presented a real complication of paranormalphenomena in his mind. Hence, the plot was very significant to present hisobscure vision of the non-rational and the unreasonable events in this story.Framing his narrative was necessary for it to succeed, and the only way toachieve that was through plotting. TheCastle of Otranto was structured properly in terms of the rules of melodrama.There was nothing unnecessary in its details, and everything flowed smoothly.
Whatwas fascinating in the story was that Walpole kept the description to the slightest,yet he managed to deliver the whole picture to the reader clearly. He usedclear language that was not overbearing or excessive. Despite of the unpredictability in the emotions, all of the events, thedescriptions, and the mystery were perfectly framed within the horrifying amorousplot.
Doing so contributed a lot in attracting the reader, confuses, and surprises him or herand made the story more appealing. “Manfred,Prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: the latter, a most beautifulvirgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda. Conrad, the son, was three yearsyounger, a homely youth, sickly, and of no promising disposition; yet he wasthe darling of his father, who never showed any symptoms of affection toMatilda. Manfred had contracted a marriage for his son with the Marquis ofVicenza’s daughter, Isabella; and she had already been delivered by herguardians into the hands of Manfred, that he might celebrate the wedding assoon as Conrad’s infirm state of health would permit” (Walpole 73).This preceding sentence is one of the examples of Walpole’s stylethat shows the significance of plotting. Without it, there was no other waythat would make what happens in the story understandable, appealing, andsuccessful.
Walpole’s story hadmany complicated emotions in it. Since it came from a dream, it makes thereader sense many personal conflicts on the writer’s side. The unusual eventsthat occurred in the Castle of Otranto, the thriller, the mystery, all make thereader feel the frightening phantasms andfill the soul with surreptitious fears.Walpole wanted the reader to experience everything in his novel, while evoking hisor her emotions and imagination to allow them to further think of moreterrifying details. “A bystander often sees more of the game thanthose that play”, and this is exactly how the reader feels while following theplot (Walpole 56). Furthermore, theplot needs to be combined with the other characteristics of Gothic literaturein order to draw a complete, perfect picture. The medieval setting and thedescribed decoration were connected immediately to the existence of the frighteningsupernatural powers in the castle.
Their existence was the main guide of themysteries that occurred inside the Castleof Otranto. The events of the story invoke the psychological thriller inthe reader as well. Throughout the book, Walpole used supernatural wonders and mysteries. He also used clear connotationsand negative imageries from Catholicism, which is another importantcharacteristic of the Gothic novels.
Plot sets thefoundation to the reader, introducing him or her to the main characters. Itmakes the reader know who they are, what they do, what they want, how they aregoing to get what they want, and what conflicts and obstacles are hinderingthem from doing so. It shows the reader their motivations, and motivates thereader to follow them in their journey. Without knowing them, they would bejust names that make no sense to the reader. Furthermore, the action comes tothe picture due to the existence of the conflicts and the barriers, withoutseeing them, the reader cannot distinguish between the characters, theirpersonalities, strength, weakness, and would not know who to like, who to hate,and why. The reader cannot have a reactions to the emotions presented in thestory without the structured plot. It gives the story an introduction, a climax,and a proper conclusion. The plot is significant in helpingthe reader keep track of the events.
It also can make him or her predict theupcoming events and adds to the excitement. “Never is the reader’s attentionrelaxed. The rules of the drama are almost observed throughout the conduct ofthe piece” (Walpole 18). The significance ofplotting the Gothic stories in precise comes from the un-subjectivity in the literature. Where the focus is not on onecharacter only, instead, on the sequence of the unexplainable events. Hence,the plot structures the story in a very precise form in which the story occursand makes it engaging although it is fictional. Without it, the writer would belimited in his or her imaginary events and wouldn’t be able to deliver thestory appropriately.
Without a plot, TheCastle of Otranto wouldbe a story about a prince who encounters strange events in his life and finallyleaves his throne to a peasant. The plot matters to the reader because it ishow most people were taught to read and expect. The common knowledge learned isthat stories have to apt the plot structure.
The readerneeds to sense the action throughout the story and finally find a natural,neat, and perhaps a satisfying conclusion. One can defiantly see where plot issignificant and dominates the story by simply watching a movie. Plot is basicallythe significant influencer behind every piece of literature. Without it, thereis no hook that attracts the reader, no conflict that coerces the protagoniststo struggle for a certain aim. Most importantly, there will be not story.Furthermore, plotis what makes literature interesting in the first place. Many stories mighthave the same, redundant, or classic models of plots, yet each story takes thereader in a different adventure and helps him or her build a connection withthe characters.
“The plot is part obstacle course, partfree-for-all, and part relay race in which the participants run through acluttered labyrinth passing the baton to whomever they happen to meet” (Napier60). In the Gothic literature, plot is curtailto move the story forward and create the overall atmosphere of restlessnessthat characterizes this genre’s stories. Anothercharacteristic that depends on the plot is the heavy exaggeration of theGothic stories that expresses states of intensity and divisions of action asthey occur. The significanceof the plot in Gothic literature was shown in Horace Walpole’s first work and itis still being used by the most recent Gothic writer, Stephen King, centuriesafter had Walpole had sat the standards. King followed the classic gothicelements at the beginning, then, he united them with modern events and createda modernized form of Gothic literature. No matter if it is the old or the newform of the literature, plot is significant in making the story readable andlasting. Plotting contributes in broadening the horizons of the writers andtakes them into so many adventures throughout the process of writing a story.
Otherwise,it would be a dull, boring, unreadable pile of papers. After all, “Heaven mocks the short-sighted views of man”(Walpole 104).