Insanity in Gothic Literature
Gothic authors submerge their readers into the dark and depressing atmosphere as they slowly lead the characters through the traps of their minds. In many cases, the heroes are experiencing some forms of insanity, imagining or seeing the scary phenomena while others do not. Description of the madness in Gothic literature is an instrument to make readers feel unusual complex emotions together with the main character.
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The Tell-Tale Heart
The story does not need to be long to create a dark atmosphere. Poe starts The Tell-Tale Heart with the main character trying to convince the reader he is not mad (64). That is already a sign of insanity, as stable people do not spend time and words telling others about their normality. The unnamed hero then explains how he killed an old man because of the eye that kept staring at him (Poe 65). The character pays attention to details and does not doubt that murder is the correct solution (Poe 66). Later, the imagination makes him hear the dead victim’s heartbeat, so the character voluntarily confesses his crime to the policemen (Poe 67). This four-page story lets the reader see the thoughts and reasons behind the madman’s actions.
The Yellow Wallpaper
Insane people often do not realize how unusual their life perception is from others. Perkins, in The Yellow Wallpaper story, lets the main character, a lady with a family living in a rented apartment, write her thoughts in a diary (1). She has had “imaginative power and habit of story-making” even before her obsession with the yellow wallpaper (Perkins 12). However, the lady continues her insanity journey when she sees an imagined woman trying to get inside the bedroom. The character’s husband tries to let her rest instead of accepting a psychological disorder. She slips further into madness, blaming everything on the yellow wallpaper (Perkins 37). Her noticing the details, imagining the moving shapes and smells create the pressing atmosphere for a reader.
Psychologically unstable people usually make others nervous as their behavior is often unpredictable and may appear dangerous. Both The Tell-Tale Heart and The Yellow Wallpaper are dark and depressing stories which describe insane characters explaining and justifying their actions. The Gothic literature writers use madness in their works to let readers feel strong and often scary emotions as they follow the path of a mentally unstable hero and gain new experience.
Perkins, Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper. Bebook, 1999.
Poe, Edgar. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Storyteller: Seven Stories Adopted from the Original, Tor Books, 1988, pp. 64-67.