Gothic fiction as a genre was first established with the publication of Horace Walpole’s dark, foreboding The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Rebecca Crown Library physical copy information, Archive.org free digital copy) in 1764. In the centuries since, gothic fiction has not only flourished but branched off into many popular subgenres.
Early novels in the gothic horror subgenre heavily feature discussions of morality, philosophy, and religion, with the evil villains most often acting as metaphors for some sort of human temptation the hero must overcome. The novels' endings are more often than not unhappy, and romance is never the focus.
The battle between humanity and unnatural forces of evil (sometimes man-made, sometimes supernatural) within an oppressive, inescapable, and bleak landscape is considered to be the true trademark of a gothic horror novel. These are the core elements that separate gothic horror from its cousin, gothic romance.
- Adapted from A Brief History of Gothic Horror by Amanda Pagan for New York Public Library
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