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Ancient manuscripts, feelings of gloom, fatal or tortured love, and madness or insanity are all gothic elements found in literature. They can emphasize a few things, from the role of women to a specific theme. However, different books and different authors present them the unequal ways. The mystery novels The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie present two specific elements of gothic literature. The two gothic novels contain the similar element of terrifying things at night and contrasting eerie settings to accentuate the tense and suspenseful moods of the mystery novel.
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Terrifying things that occur at night can cause fear and perturbation to people affected. Such events are exemplified in both novels. In the books, they occur in the way of unforeseen murders. When completely unexpected in the dark of night, someone dies. To begin, in the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Charles is killed at night. Sir Charles’s murder occurs in the yew alley of Baskerville Hall, following a scare from a massive hound. In the novel, the Devon County Chronicle reports, “‘that night he went out as usual for his nocturnal walk, in the course of which he was in the habit of smoking a cigar. He never returned'” (Doyle 27). The quote from the newspaper proves that he died at night. Additionally, Dr. Mortimer tells Holmes and Watson of his death: “‘Sir Charles lay on his face, his arms out, his fingers dug into the ground, and his features convulsed with some strong emotion to such an extent that I could hardly have sworn to his identity'” (Doyle 32). He was definitely killed during his walk in the yew alley, after being chased and killed from fear of the hound. The terrible occurrence happens at night time, demonstrating the gothic element. Similarly, a murder occurs at night in Murder on the Orient Express. The murder in this story, like the one in the other mystery novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, happens at night time. In the Agatha Christie novel, someone kills Mr. Ratchett, or Mr. Cassetti, mysteriously while the passengers sleep, after midnight. M. Bouc explains to the main character, detective Hercule Poirot, the killing. He says, “‘And now a passenger lies dead in his berth-stabbed'” (Christie 40). The stabbing and killing was a severely frightening event, which comes as a shock to the dozen passengers on the train. He also explains that the killing arose at night by telling Poirot that “‘Dr. Constantine is of the opinion that death occurred at about 1 A.M.'” (Christie 41). Dr. Constantine’s opinion is extremely crucial; it shows that the murder happened at night, like in The Hound of the Baskervilles. In brief, a terrifying thing (a murder) occurs at night in both novels. Events similar to those emphasize the tense and suspenseful moods of the novels. The terrifying things cause the reader to feel nervous about what will happen next, creating this mood. Also, when these terrifying things happen, the reader may feel scared, concerned, or uneasy, which is reflected by the mood. Although terrifying things at night relate in both novels, they differentiate in another.
Furthermore, eerie settings inflict an uneasy feeling for their inhabitants. The two novels both include this second gothic element, but the authors present them in different manners. In Doyle’s novel, the moor composes the eerie setting, while it is an isolated train in Christie’s. First, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the eerie setting consists of a vast, creepy, moor in which the hound supposedly roams. When Dr. Mortimer discusses the matter with Holmes and Watson, he tells about the moor. He says, “‘I assure you that there is a reign of terror in the district, and that it is a hardy man who will cross the moor at night'” (Doyle 36). The frightening properties of the moor influences Dr. Mortimer to warn of the danger that will come to those who cross the moor at night. In addition, Dr. Watson experiences this eeriness on the moor when he first arrives. He records, “‘…there rose ever, dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills'” (Doyle 83). The eerie setting definitely persists in Watson’s perspective, as shown by his narrative. The moor holds danger which gives a sense of eeriness because of the unknown aspects of it. Likewise, Murder on the Orient Express exhibits an eerie setting, although not equal to the one in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The eerie setting of Christie’s novel is presented in the manner of a train that stops due to a snowstorm. The conductor reports this to Poirot in the novel: “‘the train has stopped. We have run into a snowdrift. Heaven knows how long we shall be here.'” (Christie 35-36). The snowdrift halts the train from reaching its destination, causing distress among the passengers. Their anxiety because of the snow and slowed travel time adds to the eerie setting of the novel. Moreover, the eerie setting is also generated by a murderer who remains on the train with no way to escape. The men display this when they first discuss the crime: “M. Bouc said solemnly, ‘The murderer is with us-on the train now . . . .'” (Christie 45). The murderer has dangerous ways and Poirot suspects everyone. The unknown identification makes a mysterious atmosphere develop. Both the isolated train and the unknown murderer go together to create the eerie setting in Murder on the Orient Express. Moreover, the eerie setting further underscores the tense and suspenseful moods of the two novels. In Doyle’s novel, the mysterious moor causes the whereabouts of the hound to be unknown. The reader is anxious to know when the hound will strike next when a character inhabits the spooky moor. Secondly, in Christie’s novel, the isolated train with a murderer on it emphasizes the moods. When Poirot interrogates the twelve passengers of the train, the reader is left puzzled on who tells the truth or lies, and who actually murdered Cassetti. The eerie settings exemplify the tense and suspenseful moods of both novels.
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To conclude, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie have similar and different gothic elements. In the same way they include murders that happen at night, while Doyle’s novel has an eerie setting of the moor and Christie’s has a obstructed train. The authors utilize them to accentuate the intensity and suspense of the plot in both books. The mystery novel cannot thrive without the mood, due to the many influences on the reader’s feelings. The gothic novels by Doyle and Christie both contain terrifying things at night but different eerie settings that emphasize the drama and suspense of the mystery novel.
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