The fear of the unknown is a common Gothic theme that is used to create fear and uncertainty in the responder. This is achieved through the use of a number of different techniques and conventions. The fear of the unknown is expressed through dark, uncertain and mysterious circumstances cause responders to feel vulnerable and fearful. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula the overpowering force of the sublime, the prominence of religion, death and use of darkness accompanied by typical Gothic techniques evoke a fear of the unknown in responders.
This common Gothic themes can also be observed in The Road by Cormac McCarthy, in which the fear of the unknown is enhanced by the sublime, the prominence of religion, death and the use of darkness. Furthermore, it is clear that context has played a massive part in composition of each novel, establishing a fear of the unknown that relates to the values of the time in which the novel was published. Both Dracula and The Road are ideal examples of how the fear of the unknown is used to create a sense of insecurity and uncertainty in the responder.
The fear of the unknown in The Road is primarily created by the sublime. The sublime is the overpowering sense of the greatness and power of nature, which can be uplifting, awe-inspiring and in the case of The Road: terrifying and unforgiving. The sublime encourages responders to reconsider humanity’s place in the universe and appreciate that nature is all-powerful. By establishing the power of nature, a fear of the unknown is created. An example of this can be seen in the following quotation, “He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world.
The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. ” Through the use of descriptive language, the land is illustrated bleakly and depressingly, evoking feelings of emptiness and lifelessness. A fear of the unknown is created in this passage because it describes a landscape that is desolate and barren, generating insecure feelings about the environment, an uncertainty about the security of the characters in and the unpredictability of how nature will act in the future. The metaphor “Darkness implacable” further creates a fear of the unknown.
By darkness being all around, unstoppable and unforgiving, connotations about the unknown can be easily drawn form this. The environment is absolutely key to the story of The Road because it proves as the main obstacle to the boy and his father, it is an essential part of their relationship with one another and it plays a role in dictate their journey. But by the focusing on the overwhelming presence of nature a results in a ubiquitous fear of unknown. The environment effects the protagonists in so many ways and it is commonplace for them to question their circumstances.
By doing so, uncertainty is created and a fear of how the environment will further affect and hinder them on their journey is apparent. By establishing this fear in the novel, responders also feel this fear created by the environment. The negative, dark, bleak connotations that are evoked by descriptions of the environment such as in the opening sentences of the novel, “When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.
Nights beyond darkness and the days more gray each one that what had gone before. ” By establishing the scene in such a manner, an immediate fear of the unknown is demonstrated and an allusion to future events is made when the grayness of the days is described, “and the days more gray each one that what had gone before”. By saying this McCarthy is implying that the future can almost be predicted and it is symbolic of the situation that the Father and Son are in. The sublime is also a critical part of establishing a fear of the unknown in the novel Dracula.
Similarly to McCarthy, Stoker uses the sublime to create fear about uncertain and unpredictable circumstances. The overpowering force of nature and how it has an effect on the fear of the unknown can be seen in the quotation towards the beginning of the novel, “All at once the wolves began to howl as though as though the moonlight had had some peculiar effect on them”. The use of allusion in the quotation foreshadows the evil that is to ultimately surround Jonathan and the other protagonists in the novel.
The howling of the wolves creates a fear of the unknown because as responders read, it can be established that some form of evil is going to behold Jonathan and his friends, but even still responders do not yet know how this evil is to be conducted. More commonly, in order to represent themes of the unknown, various recurring motifs are used to enhance to further establish fear amongst responders. There are various techniques that are used particularly in Dracula to enhance a fear of the unknown, the use of doors is a prominent example.
Doors are used to are used to represent a barrier to what is the unknown. What is behind a door is unknown to both the the character and the responder, creating an overall fear and anxiety as to what it might be. An example of the repetition of this particular motif can be observed in the quotation, “But I am not in heart to describe beauty, for when I had seen the view I explored further; doors, doors, doors everywhere, and all locked and bolted. In no place save from the windows in the castle walls is there an available exit.
The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner! ” In the course of a single chapter, Harker feels stripped of the robes of honored houseguest and considers himself bound like a prisoner. The simple yet powerful repetition of the ‘door’ through the use of Gothic imagery evokes a sense of entrapment, captivity and confinement but primarily it provides responders with a strong sense of uncertainty and insecurity. The countless doors in Dracula’s castle are representative of a labyrinth, a maze with multiple paths and openings to journey through.
The symbol of the door is powerful, in that upon opening a door in the intricate maze that is the Count’s castle a new discovery is made behind each door. By using this technique, the responder as well as the protagonist becomes nervous as to what is behind each door and they are used to make the responder connect with their own absence of knowledge as to what unknown circumstance of situation that might encounter them once a door is opened. This is a simple technique used to heighten the fear of the unknown in Dracula. Another way in which the fear of the unknown is created, is through death.
Death is an unmistakeable Gothic theme that is prevalent throughout all Gothic novel, particularly in The Road. Death in the novel can be attributed with the various decisions that the protagonists make, forming a integral and fundamental part of the story line. Death pervades in The Road from the description of landscapes, to the protagonists struggle to survive and the constant threat of murder and starvation. Death is an ubiquitous force that constantly controls the protagonists lives. Death is the ultimate fear and the ultimate unknown.
Not knowing what exists after death is the main issue that troubles the protagonists and pushes them away from the tendencies of suicide. This idea can be seen when the Father says to the son, “Can you do it? When the time comes there will be no time. Now is the time. Curse God and die”. This imperative command is an example of the many suicidal contemplations that the protagonists go through. But it is clear that the idea of the unknown is frightening to the characters, because they refrain from doing it. The characters visualise of a better place after eath, a place that must be is better than there current circumstances. Despite these fascinations, the unknown and the fear that directly relates to it impedes their attempts at suicide. Death in the novel Dracula is also a way in which the fear of the unknown is communicated to responders but instead of suicide, one of the ways in which it is countered is through religion. Count Dracula, it can be argued, is the epitome of violence, terror and death. As was already mentioned, Stoker chose to use the name Dracula because it translates as Devil.
Devil embodies the word evil in its name, thus being the source of evil, is contrast and in opposition to being good, pure or love. The fear of death in The Road is very similar to that in Dracula. The protagonists are afraid of death and the fear of the unknown is very much a primary cause of this. So it can be considered that because the Dracula is represented as death than this is why he is considered evil and repulsed by the protagonists of the novel. One of the main ways that he is repulsed is through faith and religion. From a religious paradigm, Christianity is portrayed in a positive light throughout Dracula.
The protagonists pray, quote Scripture and seek God’s guidance. If Count Dracula is meant to symbolize the devil, then it is clearly Stoker’s intent to show that the evil one is resisted through the power of God. Religious imagery and practice are explicit throughout the story and Vampires are not glorified, romanticized, or portrayed as anything but vile, hellish beings. This idea can be seen right throughout the novel, “When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix.
It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there. ” This example shows how evil is resisted in the Dracula and that through the power of Christ, this resistance is achievable. The use of religion in Dracula is to establish that after death their is there is no unknown. So, by including the religious symbols in the novel, it can be seen that the characters are in opposition to the fear of the unknown and that by the guidance of Christ and God, salvation can be achieved. The issue of religion is not as prevalent in The Road as it is in Dracula.
The Road seems more concerned with the idea religious faith and doubt, and it is this continuing debate throughout the novel that allows characters to question the presence of God or the unknown after death. In some instances, belief in God is a deep-seated and times the father’s quest south to ensure his son’s survival is carried out with religious fervor: “the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God than God never spoke”. In other instances however, the man expresses doubt about, or at least questions, the existence of a higher power. “Then he just knelt in the ashes.
He raised his face to the palling day. Are you there? he whispered. Will I see you at the last? ”. The man goes further and outright denies the possibility of God’s existence in such a destructive place as earth. The boy’s own religious faith remains ambiguous. When the Father asks whether his son believes in God, the man replies, “I don’t know that the boy believes in”. But regardless, the boy’s faith in God is practically irrelevant compared with his trust in humans, as evidenced when the woman whose family rescues him tries to teach him about religion.
The boy carries the fire of which his father spoke of, the fire of hope and human resilience. Instead of succumbing to the circumstances and resorting to evil acts to survive, the boy carries the fire and does not compromise his higher human morality. The metaphor of the carrying of the fire represents that for as long as he is carrying the fire, a fear of the unknown does not exist. The ‘fire’ is symbolic of a guiding light that will direct the boy in the case of his death. The fear of the unknown is both a relevant issue in relation to religion and faith in The Road.
Darkness is also another technique that is used to enhance the fear of the unknown in the Gothic novel. In Dracula it is used to a large extent, in a number of ways and for different reasons. When considering light and darkness as an ongoing competitive battle it is possible in ‘Dracula’ to incorporate themes of ‘day and night’ as well as ‘life and death’ and ‘right and wrong’ as they all share similarities in contrast. Darkness does not create fear itself but fear is created by the possible or imagined concealed in a dark environment. It is a tendency in man to fear what is not known.
Since you cannot see anything in the dark, the mind conjures images that reflect our greatest fear. Being able to ‘see’ in the light creates a sense of security because it is known where one is going and what one is doing because the world is visible, but when darkness is introduced, the fear of the unknown becomes present. An example of the use of darkness to establish a fear of the unknown can be seen in the following quotation from Dracula, “All was dark and silent, the black shadows thrown by the moonlight seeming full of a silent mystery of their own.
Not a thing seemed to be stirring, but all to be grim and fixed as death or fate… ”. In this quotation it can be clearly seen how the darkness creates a fear for the unknown. The personification of “the black shadows thrown by the moonlight seeming full of silent mystery of their own” shows how darkness and the sublime are inextricably linked in their portrayal of the unknown. By the moon “throwing black shadows”, responders are exposed to another unknown: nature acting in such a strange way. In The Road, on the other hand, “And the dreams so rich in colour.
How would death call you? Walking in the cold dawn it all turned to ash instantly. ” In this quotation, the fear of the unknown is expressed through the visual imagery that is created by the ash. It is a direct contrast to the imagery that is created by the descriptions of the dreams. The dreams are portrayed are colourful and lively in which positive connotations can be drawn from, and the known can be established. Whereas, “Walking in the cold dawn it all turned to ash instantly” evokes dark and negative connotations whereby a fear of the unknown can be seen.
In reference to context, contextual attitudes, values and ideals in both texts play a major role in creating a fear of the unknown in the reader. The novel Dracula shows much about the context it was composed in and the values that existed at the time of its composition. The contextual influence that the Victorian period had on the novel greatly shaped the attitude in which the novel was written in and the values and ideas it expresses. Throughout the novel there are is a common theme that express the development and concepts of evolving sciences – an idea accustomed to the Victorian era.
Also Darwinism, was not widely accepted a the time and its ideas are expressed in the novel as somewhat evil as the triumph of the supernatural is prominent. The structure of society and the growing democratic reforms that were happening across Europe can be largely attributed to the industrial revolution. This idea of the industrial revolution resulted in the opposition of these particular beliefs in the novel. Also the language used in the book has clearly been influenced by Victorian life and other Victorian literature.
Furthermore, the expression of religious values in the novel emphasise the importance of religion in the life of the people and the triumph of religious tradition over contemporary scientific values. The novel expresses many different ideas and themes that oppose the ultra-conservative and con-formative society, it is these ideas and themes that work in conjunction to create a fear of the unknown. The threat of female sexual expression and the fear of the foreigner are just some of the ways in which a fear of the unknown is established through contextual influence.
The threat of female sexual expression is a common in the novel and a fear of the unknown is created because in Victorian England, women’s sexual behavior was dictated by society’s extremely rigid expectations. In England during the Victorian era, the typical woman was either a virgin, a symbol of purity and innocence, or she was a wife and mother. If she was neither of these, she was considered a whore. The sexual expression in the novel is widespread and the prominent sexual expression by women in Dracula is a direct contrary to the societal expectations of the time.
The idea of the free expression of sexuality in women is something that was completely unknown to the Victorian society and it was this unknown that creates fear. An example of the expression of female sexuality in Dracula can be observed in the dream where Jonathan is seduced by the female vampires, “I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she actually licked her lips like an animal. Through the use of descriptive language a sensual image is established in the responders mind. The blatant sexual tendencies of the characters induces feelings of uncomfortableness and repulsiveness towards an act so the contrary to Victorian values and ideals. It is here that the fear of the unknown becomes a reality and the something so despised and discouraged is opened up to responders. The fear of the foreigner, is also another way that the fear of the unknown is created through contextual influence.
Racial stereotypes and negative images perceived by the English about foreigners was a common issue during the Victorian era, and these values can be easily seen in the novel. The animalistic nature of the vampire is metaphorical of the foreigner, who can be distinguished as the outsider and it is the fear of the outsider that is can be transposed with the fear of the unknown. Foreign customs, their perspective on life and their view of the world are all different to that of the typical Englishman, and it is this fear of what the foreigner is and what he stands for all contributes to the fear of the unknown.
In The Road, context plays another prominent role in establishing a fear of the unknown. In today’s contemporary society, it is almost custom to question the fate of humanity and potential ways in which human existence will cease. Modern issues such as global warming, habitat destruction and rising sea levels seem imminent, inevitable and unavoidable in Earth’s future. It is this contextual influence that has most impact on the novel. The issue of mass extinction of all species of life, raise questions in the responder about the possibility of an apocalyptic event.
In a society where everyday, millions of people question the fate of humanity, the destiny of the Earth and the billions of people that inhabit it. We as a society fear the fact of non-existence and it is this fear that becomes a reality in the novel. A fear of the unknown in the novel is not necessarily established, but a fear of the unknown is actually somewhat answered. Humanities worst fears about the fate of the world become real and are captivated by the struggle of a father and son and their determination to survive.
The fear of the unknown is a common Gothic theme that is prevalent right throughout both Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. From the explicit use of sublime in both novels, to the use of death, religion and darkness, a fear of the unknown is always created in both the character and the responder. The context that the novels were composed in allow for responders to further question and substantiate their fear. It is clear that through various techniques that the fear of the unknown is a prominent theme in both novels and these particular techniques perfectly match those of the typical Gothic novel.