1. Setting in a castle. The action takes place in and around an old castle, sometimes seemingly abandoned, sometimes occupied. The castle often contains secret passages, trap doors, secret rooms, dark or hidden staircases, and possibly ruined sections.

2. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The work is pervaded by a threatening feeling, a fear enhanced by the unknown. Elements 3, 4, and 5 below contribute to this atmosphere.

3. An ancient prophecy is connected with the castle or its inhabitants (either former or present). The prophecy is usually obscure, partial, or confusing. “What could it mean?”

4. Omens, visions, elements of foreshadowing. A character may have a disturbing dream vision, or some phenomenon may be seen as a portent of coming events. For example, if the statue of the lord of the manor falls over, it may portend his death.

5. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events. Dramatic, amazing events occur, such as ghosts or inanimate objects (such as a suit of armor or painting) coming to life. In some works, the events are given a natural explanation, while in others the events are truly supernatural.

6. High or overwrought emotion. The narration may be highly sentimental, and the characters are often overcome by anger, sorrow, surprise, and especially, terror.

7. Women in distress. The female characters often face events that leave them fainting, terrified, screaming, and/or sobbing. A lonely, pensive, and oppressed heroine is often the central figure of the novel.

8. Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male. One or more male characters has the power, as king, lord of the manor, father, or guardian, to demand that one or more of the female characters do something intolerable. For example, the woman may be commanded to marry someone she does not love (it may even be the powerful male himself).

9. Pathetic Fallacy. Where an external condition like rain is used to stand for something internal like sorrow. For example, in some films we often notice that it is raining in funeral scenes.

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