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, Stoker goes to great lengths to show that his narrators are all rational and logical, ‘there was business to be done, and I could allow nothing to interfere with it’, and to show that their imaginations do not ‘run riot’ – heightening the fear and interest of the reader, as a supposedly intelligent person is still shown as vulnerable.
In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Dorian suffers from both actual and psychological isolation from his forced vulnerability. The reason why this happens is due to the increase of evil in him as the plot develops. This is down to the corruptive character of Lord Henry, who increases his ‘terribly enthralling’ influence over him with the use of his ‘yellow book’- ‘For years Dorian Gray could not free himself from the influence of this book.’ The book becomes like a Holy Scripture to him and he lives a life devoted to bringing together new experiences and sensations with no regard for conventional standards of morality, or the consequences of his actions. He soon understands what has happened, but is unable to do anything about it by this time -‘You poisoned me with a book once. I should never forgive that…it does harm.’ The use of corruptive characters is also apparent in ‘Dracula’, as the...