Gothic Novels | Modern, Classic or Victorian

These novels contain some of the usual elements of gothic fiction—old or decaying places, physical or mental irregularities, night journeys, foggy moors, and mysterious influences.

Gothicism in Novels

The Phantom of the Opera | Gaston Leroux

When the directors of an opera house are retiring they turn the place over to new owners, and tell them about the phantom living there and his demands–Box 5 is not to be rented, and he is to be paid 20,000 francs a month. A former understudy, Christine, gives a powerful performance. Raoul, a young man from a prestigious family, is in love with her. The new owners get a letter from the phantom when they ignore his instructions.

“‘…know that I am built up of death from head to foot and that it is a corpse that loves you and adores you and will never, never leave you!”

Read “The Phantom of the Opera”

The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Victor Hugo

A beautiful woman, La Esmerelda, is the victim of an attempted kidnapping by Quasimodo, a disfigured hunchback. Pierre Gringoire, a playwright, intervenes and is knocked out. Quasimodo is arrested by Phoebus, captain of the king’s army. La Esmerelda is attracted to him. Meanwhile, Frollo, a priest and Quasimodo’s adopted guardian, has been maneuvering behind the scenes. La Esmerelda is desired by four men– Quasimodo, Gringoire, Frollo, and Phoebus–and deals with their machinations.

“The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him–he resembled them too closely for that. It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.”

Read “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

The Mayor of Casterbridge | Thomas Hardy

While intoxicated, Michael Henchard sells his wife, Susan, and his young daughter, Elizabeth, to a sailor. Eighteen years later, Susan tracks Michael to Casterbridge, where he has become the mayor. She hopes he will help give Elizabeth a start in life.

Read “The Mayor of Casterbridge”

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Jekyll is walking with his lawyer, Gabriel, and another man, Enfield, when a story is told of a man named Hyde with a highly displeasing appearance and manner, who knocked down a little girl in the street. Gabriel discovers that Jekyll has Hyde in his will, having bequeathed all his possessions to him. An associate says that Jekyll’s mind hasn’t been right for ten years. Gabriel looks into Hyde, finding him to be disgusting and evil. A witness later identifies him as the man who committed a serious crime.

“The most racking pangs succeeded: a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death.”

Read “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

Jane Eyre | Charlotte Bronte

As a child Jane lives with her aunt, Mrs. Reed, who treats her badly. Jane is sent away to a school for orphaned girls where conditions are uncomfortable and the food is insufficient. The authority figures are callous and unfriendly, with the exception of the head teacher, Miss Temple. When Miss Temple leaves the school, Jane looks for a job as a governess. She is hired by Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper for her new employer, Mr. Rochester. The estate is comfortable but sometimes unsettling, and Mr. Rochester is aloof.

“…the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so somber, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.”

Read “Jane Eyre”

Rebecca | Daphne du Maurier

Maxim de Winter, recently widowed, is at an expensive resort when he meets a poor woman, the companion to a rich woman, and marries her. After the honeymoon, they go to his estate, Manderley. While she is now mistress of the house, she is inexperienced with such things and allows the servants much latitude in the daily routine. She finds that the memory of the previous Mrs. de Winter still exerts a powerful influence over everyone.

The Hound of the Baskervilles | Arthur Conan Doyle

Holmes is visited by Dr. Mortimer, who explains that his friend Charles Baskerville was found dead of a heart attack on his property near the moor with gigantic hound footprints nearby. The legend of the Baskerville curse continues, as several generations of its men have died suddenly. The current owner of Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry, receives a note warning him to stay away from the moor.

Read “The Hound of the Baskervilles”


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