Gothic literature is fiction in which strange, gloomy settings and mysterious, violent, often supernatural events create suspense and terror. Southern gothic literature uses gothic motifs to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South.
Following are a few characteristics of gothic and southern gothic literature:
- The gothic novel tries to evoke chilling terror and gloom by exploiting mystery and horror. Gothic is about haunting and possession. We are supposed to feel a chill at some point in the story, and this emotional response is in part the point of the gothic experience. Paradoxically, this fear is a source of pleasure. "Tis so appalling--it exhilarates," Emily Dickinson says in a poem.
- In a Gothic work, there is usually confusion about good and evil. What does ‘good’ actually mean? What about ‘evil’? And how can we tell the difference?
- Gothic reveals a fear of institutions, such as religion, education, or marriage.
- Gothic shows the dark and hidden side of things. It rips open the lies and shows a world of cruelty, lust, perversion, and crime hidden beneath society’s rules and customs.
- Gothic tears through censorship and explodes hypocrisies. It exposes the world as a corrupt, reeking place.
- Gothic is a reaction to the conventional, common sense, and enlightened world. If society is supposed to be orderly and sensible, gothic shows how it really isn’t.