The Gothic Tradition in Stoker’s Dracula and Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray
Gothic Literature was a natural progression from romanticism, which had existed in the 18th Century. Initially, such a ‘unique’ style of literature was met with a somewhat mixed response; although it was greeted with enthusiasm from members of the public, literary critics were much more dubious and sceptical.
Gothic writing is a style of literature that relies upon the evocation of moods, feelings and imagery for impact. This style of writing was developed during an age of great scientific discovery – such literature marked a reaction against the prevailing ‘Age of Enlightenment’. Many Gothic authors opposed the new-found faith and enthusiasm placed in these discoveries, believing that they restricted freedom of imagination. Consequently, Gothic writers inhabited areas where no answers are provided – exploiting people’s fears and offering answers that are in stark contrast to the otherwise scientific explanations.
Gothic writing is a style that depends upon the evocation of moods, which is reflected mainly in the writing style of a novel. ‘Dracula’ is written in the first person – ‘I must have been asleep’ – with a constant change of narrator within chapters. Wilde, however, wrote in the third person, omniscient, giving us the observer’s point of view whilst still showing us the intelligence and class of his characters through the language that they use – ‘come, Mr Gray, my hansom is outside’.
The diary entries or notes used in ‘Dracula’ are fragmented and have an epistolary structure ‘Jonathon Harker’s Journal’. This emphasises each of the character’s feelings of isolation and loneliness, adding to the appeal of the reader. During the entries, Stok…
… die, innocence and good is corrupted and there is a connection to sexuality. Both novels create an aspect of mystery for the reader of the 19th century. Stoker’s portrayal of a creature little known by the English public of the 1890’s would have been of fear inspiring fascination to read about. Though few would have read John Palidori’s vampire novel, more perhaps would have heard the tale of Vlad the Impaler. He was a man who supposedly drank human blood or the blood of his war victims, and was in fact a ‘Dracule’. This basis in reality would add a sadistic interest to the novel. Wilde’s novel, though equally inexplicable, doesn’t create the same feeling of terror, but does raise a number of reservations in its reader.
Both novels are seemingly successful texts in upholding the interest of the reader through many of the typical conventions of the Gothic tradition.