Compare gothic and frightening descriptions within their novels:

Compare how authors use the supernatural to present ideas in their novels.’The supernatural’ could be defined as the manifestations or events considered to be beyond scientific understanding or origin, such as ghosts. Thus it is no surprise writers such as Wilde and Waters heavily integrated aspects of the supernatural to shape such gothic and frightening descriptions within their novels: simultaneously exciting and interesting the  reader – making them curious to know what happens next. Many critics believe that within both novels, this theme is used to do such that – create a sense of tension and suspense (significant as the reader wants to read on).Wilde and Waters convey the threat of malign forces in different ways.

The Picture of Dorian Gray seemed more focussed upon the gothic element of the supernatural theme – hinting at other interpretations such as the haunting of others shown by Henry’s influence on Dorian and the way the portrait haunts Dorians moral sense of what’s right and wrong. Whilst Water’s novel seems more focussed upon the “typical” ghost element of a supernatural theme, and the horror and destruction that is caused. This may be because of the time in which each book was written, because The Picture of Dorian Gray was published in the late 19th century, around, 250 years before The Little Stranger was published in the early 21st century. As a result, influences of The authors would’ve been completely varied, meaning such supernatural stories (often originating from folk law) would be significantly different  Whilst Wilde introduces the haunting of Dorian with relative immediacy through the portrait’s creation and introduction to Lord Henry’s influence in the opening chapters, Waters chooses to extend the gradual and uncertain period of hauntings over a larger section of the novel, creating a build-up of suspense for the reader. This structural decision enables the presentation of the haunted characters, such as Roderick and Mrs Ayres to be treated with more suspicion, creating tension through the decline of Hundreds Hall which undergoes a ‘slight but definite shift,’ vividly intensifying its process of decay as the novel progresses, coinciding with the increasing tension and fear.

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This physical decay of the house can be seen from the opening of the novel, which uses Faraday as the narrator speaking about the past to recall that ‘the Ayres still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district.’ This suggestion of deteriorating social stance as well as the physical decay of Hundreds Hall is exacerbated gradually throughout the novel by the increasingly damaging effects of ‘The Little Stranger,’ which coincides with the financial collapse of the Ayres family to leave the whole family in desperation. Similarly, the deliberate use of darkness helps explore the theme of the supernatural throughout both novels.

In both novels we see similar structure of chapters showing a supernatural journey, followed by a frightening event. In The Little Stranger, Mrs Ayres is exploring the abandoned floor of the house which the servants previously lived on. The reader is informed that the corridor has ‘noticeably lower ceilings’ which not only creates a claustrophobic dark setting, but also would compliment the ‘milky light’ which ‘lit up the stairwell with a chill’ which made the corridor was ‘gloomier than ever’, perfect complimenting Wilde’s setting of darkness describing how ‘the moon hung low in the sky like a yellow skull’. The use of the superlative ‘gloomier’ only emphasises the depressing and frightening setting created by the darkness, along with the ‘milky’ white light – creating an almost artificial and unnatural connotations for the reader. Also the ‘milky’ has connotations of thickness, perhaps representing the thickness of the dark creating such a sinister setting.

Finally we are told that ‘With the generator off, the electric light switches were useless’, here Dorian seems to be obtusely foreboding something bad to happen, emphasised the description of even attempting to use a light switch as ‘useless’ showing the lack of ability of the light.Similarly, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, we see Dorian leaving his luxurious estate in London to head to an opium den in ‘dripping mist’. The English opium narratives construct a London landscape that restricts choice once the journey has begun. Opium dens are always situated in the East End of London and the imagery surrounding them is always that of the exotic, dangerous East.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, we see no exemption of danger – emphasised too by the use of darkness and gothic descriptions of how ‘The moon hung low in the sky like a yellow skull’ transforming the streets into an an image unequivocal in its sinister malevolence and supernatural presence, emphasised by the verb ‘ hung’ with double entendre either showing how something can be emotionally confused or disturbed, or referring death and hanging, especially when coupled with how the moon ‘hung low’ – as it seems almost wrong or unintentional.Opium dens are always situated in the East End of London and the imagery surrounding them is always that of the exotic, dangerous East. The theme of darkness is a vital theme throughout The Picture of Dorian Gray to reference double life. Throughout, we only see Dorian sin in darkness, and goodness in light.

Perhaps Wilde is referencing the Faustus myth showing the alternate personas of a single protagonist.The use of darkness is effective within both novels to exacerbate the supernatural theme. Along with the pathetic fallacy connoting danger, darkness takes away the reader “sight” wishing the novel, so inadvertently feels more at danger as the pathetic fallacy compliments the lack of description meaning the reader is afraid by the setting as well as the sense of the unknown. In both The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Little Stranger, we see the author play off of darkness to explore the sense even greater. In fact, many critics argue that one reason why both novels are so gripping, is down to the authors techniques to include alternate sense – or more specifically – cut out key senses creating sense of helplessness and terror.In The Little Stranger, once Mrs Ayres finally reaches the room on the abandoned floor we hear supernatural event (deliberately don’t see) outside of the room Mrs Ayres is in. Waters’ sibilance in describing ‘then she heard something. The swift, soft patter of footsteps,’ and the ‘faint, moist susurration,’ that juxtapose the guttural sounds of ‘the cry of a hungry baby.

‘ This eerie yet forceful presence adheres to the typical conventions the genre, with a supernatural spirit inspiring terror by its unnatural actions and malevolent motivations. We only ‘hear’ the event because Mrs Ayres the door in the room she was in ‘had managed, in some extraordinary way, to lock itself’ – this vague description heavily creating such a suspicion for supernatural events. This is similar to Wilde’s use nature paired with the supernatural when Dorian is leaving to the opium den. On his way, Wilde deliberately uses the supernatural theme to make the animals seem almost against him going – as if they were possessed. We are told ‘a dog as they went by, and far away in the darkness some wondering seagull screamed’. Much like Waters, Wilde has given the reader fewer senses in times of  supernatural presence to attempt to make the reader feel almost surprised and unprepared – heightening the euphoric supernatural setting.In the 19th century it was believed animals could detect things humans couldn’t, like sense an earthquake. Perhaps Wilde is playing on this opinion to make it seem as if the animals can sense an idea of danger from Dorians actions.

As Dorian travels, we hear that ‘far away in the darkness, some wondering seagull screamed’. Again the reference to darkness exacerbates the links to blackness with evil. Therefore, hearing animals ‘scream’ at the protagonist creates an eerie supernatural sense in most readers.To conclude, I believe in both novel the theme of the supernatural is key for the progression of the plot and key events.

During both novels, the theme of the supernatural not only furthers the plot – since both plots are arguably based entirely around the supernatural theme. But also makes chapters where the there are Volta’s more interesting and relatable to the reader. Therefore, Ibelieve the theme of the supernatural is very important in presenting ideas within both novels.


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