Gothic Literature of Irving and Poe


This genre is constructed of fears and interests, forcing the reader to immerse himself in the dark thoughts of the characters. Gothic literature, in spite of it all, has maintained its popularity, changing with the passage of time. The action of literary Gothic works, as a rule, unfolds in a gothic dystopian castle, dungeon, cave. Thus, it is essential to analyze Irving and the Poe short stories to compare their use of the gothic style and their influence on the development of the modern short story.


Significantly, “Tell-Tale Heart” demonstrates the story of the main character who is possessed by an object. To enhance the effect on readers, the author used a gothic style that is evident throughout the short story. In “Tell-Tale Heart,” the gothic style is vividly expressed in the demonstration of the protagonist’s madness. One can trace it to the beginning of the story, when he declares his madness and fears, the character says, “how, then, am I mad? Hearken! And observe how healthily-how calmly I can tell you the whole story” (Poe, 2015, p. 74). Therefore, it has a significant effect on the reader, who considers him insane.

However, the author chooses depressing words to describe the gloomy atmosphere, which is one of the key characteristics of the Gothic style. Similarly, when the hero despairs in his ears, as the beating heart of an old man brings to the natural effect of the story. Together, all of these factors are intended to ensure that the reader fully understands the narrator’s views and is imbued with the gothic atmosphere.

In the short story “Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving a significant role is also assigned to the natural effect, emphasizing the gothic style. The author notes “in the dark wool hat, on the hollow, I know something like, misshapen, black and towering. It is not removed, but sown gathered in gloom, like some giant monster ready to spring upon the traveller” (Irving, 1893, p. 87). However, in addition to the supernatural effect, the setting plays a prominent role in the story. As in “Tell-Tale Heart,” such gothic techniques are meant to create an atmosphere of fear and sadness. The author depicts animals as food, this is intended to create a terrifying environment. Although Washington Irving actively uses natural phenomena to show the mood of the protagonist; this element is missing in the story “Tell-Tale Heart”.

It could be argued that Washington Irving makes better use of the Gothic style in the story because it combines the natural, the natural and the human. The author demonstrates through the phenomena of nature the imperfection of human minds, which are inspired by supernatural phenomena. He also, like Poe, maintains a disturbing and frightening atmosphere in the story, which are enhanced by the surroundings. It is important to mention that Washington Irving has been named the father of the modern short story because his works were the first to combine elements of the gothic style and humor. Both Irving and Poe had a significant influence on the development of modern short story because they proved that the story can be written not only from the side of reality, but also to delve into the inner world of the characters.


Thus, both stories are written in a gothic style, and the authors have created an atmosphere of mysticism and horror to allow readers to understand the characters’ thoughts. While both authors use mysticism, Washington Irving enhances it with natural phenomena through which they show the moods of the characters. Edgar Allan Poe employs a person’s state of mind to explain their actions rather than demonstrating it through nature. Although both stories have a significant influence on the development of modern short stories, Irving narrates the story better through the use of three techniques.


Irving, W. (1893). Rip Van Winkle and the legend of sleepy hollow. Macmillan and Company.

Poe, E. A. (2015). The tell-tale heart. Penguin UK.

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