What is a Gothic novel?
The first major Gothic novel was Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto which was first published in 1765; The Castle of Otranto incorporated all the trappings of what would become the standard for any Gothic novel: creepy, disturbing castles or ruins, wild, untamed nature, dark villains, and virtuous heroines. The setting was of the utmost imporance in any Gothic novel, and the author used the dark, dangerous qualities of the setting to build suspense and promote the plot; authors placed their stories in ghostly castles, dark abbeys, haunted, mysterious manors. Common themes of gothic novels include: virtue versus sin, heroism, redemption, betrayal, and unrequited love. After the sweeping success of The Castle of Otranto, other Gothic writers emerged; one of the most well known and popular was Ann Radcliffe. Radcliffe's novels, like The Italian and The Mysteries of Udolpho, feature virtuous heroines who face peril from sinister villains (like Father Schedoni in The Italian).
Since then, other writers have embraced the Gothic style, and the modern Gothic novel has emerged especially so in american literature as the 'southern gothic' style. William Faulkner's novels, especially Absalom, Absalom!, are a perfect example of 'southern gothic' style. Absalom, Absalom! recounts a mystery from several different points of view throughout the novel, all centered around the sinister Sutpen estate. Also worthy of mention are the many southern gothic short stories like "A Rose for Emily," "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor, and "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates. The Gothic novel continues to grow in popularity today, especially in young adult fiction.