Gothic literature flourished in nineteenth century Europe, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quite clearly falls into this category. The first English Gothic novel was Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1765), which was very popular and quickly imitated. Readers were fascinated by its suspense, use of the supernatural, and medieval influences. Soon, through the influence of Walpole's successful book, Gothic literature became a genre, which takes its name from Otranto's medieval, or Gothic, setting. Early Gothic novels were generally set in the Middle Ages and in remote locations. Later Gothic works branched out from these restrictions. The Gothic novel became particularly popular in Britain, where masterpieces such as Dracula, The Turn of the Screw, Frankenstein, and Jane Eyre were written.
A major theme of Gothic novels tends to be the existence of powerful secrets, such as Jekyll's connection to Hyde. In addition, nearly every Gothic novel takes place in a strange, mysterious location, such as Dracula's castle, the Thornfield estate in Jane Eyre, or the foggy, dark, mysterious nighttime London of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson places great stress on the dark, dank streets of London in wonderfully descriptive language. For instance, while Poole and Utterson prepare to break down the door of Jekyll's study, Stevenson writes, "[t]he scud had banked over the moon, and it was now quite dark. The wind, which only broke in puffs and draughts into that deep well of building, tossed the light of the candle to and fro about their steps."
To be considered Gothic, a novel must contain some combination of the below attributes, as listed on www.litgothic.com:
Â· a castle, ruined or intact, haunted or not,
Â· ruined buildings which are sinister or which arouse a pleasing melancholy,
Â· dungeons, underground passages, crypts, and catacombs which, in modern houses, become spooky basements or attics,
Â· labyrinths, dark corridors, and winding stairs,
Â· shadows, a beam of moonlight in the blackness, a flickering candle, or the only source of light failing (a candle blown out or an electric failure),
Â· extreme landscapes, like rugged mountains, thick forests, or icy wastes, and extreme weather,
Â· omens and ancestral curses,
Â· magic, supernatural manifestations, or the suggestion of the supernatural,
Â· a passion-driven, willful villain-hero or villain,
Â· a curious heroine with a tendency to faint and a need to be rescued frequently,
Â· a hero whose true identity is revealed by the end of the novel,
Â· horrifying (or terrifying) events or the threat of such happenings.
The Gothic contains gloom, mystery, suspense, drama, a tendency toward the macabre, and sensational behaviors. First developed as a genre of literature, Gothic imagery now invades television shows, movies, and plays.