The Gothic genre is a style which existed for two hundred years and still lives on in modern literature. It is a period which incorporated vampires, witches, ghosts and other superstitions into real life and aimed to scare. The mode changed and modernised throughout the years to include the disintegration of order and the fears and desires of man, mirroring the worries of society in the period. All these techniques displayed many classic conventions which are usually easy to distinguish. The “Tomb of Sarah” is a piece from the Gothic which exhibits many of these features, bringing good and evil together in the mortal world.
Vampires were figures beyond scientific or natural explanation and with their nocturnal existence and indiscriminate desires seemed a particular sexual threat to cultural value: venereal disease threatened family, society and culture. Loring uses conventional methods in setting, characters and language to create a frightening effect. A story that is not so conventional but is nonetheless a piece of Gothic is The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe. Poe is an author whose stories best illustrate the distortions of the imagination: his chilling Gothic settings with their gloom, decay and extravagance reflect the diseased minds of the characters.
Human desires and neuroses are portrayed in the lurid hues of the supernatural- nightmare and reality becoming intertwined. Poe’s stories do not tame the illusions of psychosis: the questions remain unanswered. The Black Cat is a good example of these practices, not presenting easily recognizable features of Gothic but still being worthy of the genre, the story tells of a man’s drunken insanity which he inflicts on his feline companion. The characters in Gothic horror are fairly routine. As always there is the brave hero/heroine and the evil villain.
The heroes of Gothic tales follow a series of conventions and The Tomb of Sarah is no exception. The hero, Harry is an expert in the field of legends, “especial study of any old legends of family histories. “, “he was very well read. ” We find this out at the beginning of the book and is deliberately prophetic of tasks yet to come that will require this knowledge, such as banishing the countess back to her tomb, “great gratitude for the years of study I have been able to devote to the special subject. ” His expertise also makes the story more credible as primary evidence is more substantial than a myth.
He shows signs of courageousness in many stages in the story, especially when he saves his friend’s life; “Grant… in the name of all you hold sacred, have done and play the man. ” He is rational and collects sufficient evidence of the Sarah Tomb before he jumps to the conclusion that she is a vampire. Each step he takes in ensuring the Vampires death is carefully planned, he conducts several “experiments” before jumping to conclusions and waits to see if his predictions are correct, “if as I expect, we hear some neighbouring sheepfold has been raided. ” This shows intelligence which harks back to him as an expert.
He is a determined man who wants to see the job is done, “I must insist that you will let me prosecute this in my own way. ” Harry’s intelligence is also shown in his precautions taken in acquiring the Rector’s help. He predicted that the Rector, obviously being a religious man, would not accept the idea of a Vampire and so took measures to break it to him in a way that would ensure his belief, “I dare not mention or even hint my fears to the Rector, for he is, not unnaturally perhaps, a rank disbeliever in many things I know, from experience, are not only possible but even probable.
” One unusual feature however is that he does not appear to desire any of the fame and glory that comes with being the hero as in often common in horror. The Black Cat does not present an obvious hero; the main character in the story is depicted as the villain. This is unconventional. “The evil Countess Sarah” is a prime example of a Gothic villain. Vampires, ghosts, phantoms and wolves were popular in the genre and Sarah, being a vampire, is very conventional. As is common in gothic horror, before she was murdered the Countess Sarah was a member of the aristocracy.