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Gothic Tone in Poetry Essay

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Updated: Dec 17th, 2019


Gothic poems depict features of horror and romance using themes based on dream motifs, love, and death. Poe is a renowned gothic poet whose poems have great elements of horror and love. This essay will focus analysis on two poems by Poe; thus, The Raven and A Dream. The essay will also analyze two poems by Hudgins, i.e., In the Well and Praying Drunk.

Gothic tone in Poe’s Poems

Poe’s poems are rife with gothic elements. They are the so-called dark poems because they depict the horrors that lie in a person’s subconscious. Features of such poems include references to darkness, dream motifs, death, supernatural beings and other aspects of mysticism.

The two poems, The Raven and A Dream, exhibit a regular rhyme scheme, a common aspect of Poe’s gothic poetry. Rhyme in The Raven occurs regularly in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth line in every stanza.

For example, in the second stanza rhyme appears as follows: “floor/ Lenore/ Lenore/ evenmore”. A Dream posits an alternating rhyme scheme in every stanza; thus “night/ bright” and “star/ afar” (Poe, “A Dream” stanza 4). Regular rhyme is a prominent feature of gothic poetry as it creates a regular rhythm. It helps create the aura of mysticism in gothic poems.

There is an extensive repetition of sounds in Poe’s poems. In The Raven, the tapping and rapping sounds are repeated significantly: “… someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door” (Poe, “The Raven” p. 716) and “… you came tapping, tapping on my chamber door” (Poe, “The Raven” p. 716).

The tapping and the rapping sounds create an eerie atmosphere and suspense in the poem. The speaker, though afraid of the extraordinary raven, is overcome by curiosity to hear more from the creature.

Alliteration has also been used extensively in the two poems. A few examples in The Raven include: “weak… weary”, “silken sad” and “Deep… darkness” (Poe, “The Raven” p. 716). Various examples abound in A Dream. They include: “dreamed… departed”, “life… light” and “While… world” (Poe, “A Dream” stanzas 1 and 3). Alliteration enhances rhythm and musicality in poems.

The tone of the two poems is basically melancholic. Poe has achieved this through a clever choice of words, e.g., “dark night” and “lonely spirit” in A Dream (Poe, “A Dream” stanzas 1 and 3) and “weak and weary”, “sorrow” and “bleak December” in The Raven (Poe, “The Raven” p. 716).

Together with the regular rhyme scheme and the repetitive “o” sound in The Raven, the poet is able to heighten the melancholic atmosphere that is characteristic of gothic poems.

Gothic Tone in Andrew Hudgins’ Poems

The poems, In the Well and Praying Drunk by Hudgins evince gothic elements. In the Well has an “abcb” regular rhyme scheme, which produces a regular beat. This helps set the gothic atmosphere and tone in the poem.

The rhyme in Praying Drunk is deliberately irregular in order to implicate the erratic actions of one drunk. The speaker is praying to God after another episode of drinking and debauchery: “Our Father who art in Heaven, I am drunk” (Hudgins, “Praying Druck” stanza 1).

The poems also exhibit some repetitive sounds. For example, in In the Well, the sound “a” is rampant: “…dark … earth/ I swung and struck my head” (Hudgins, “In the Well” stanza 2). In Praying Drunk, the same sound persists: “… comes… stutter” (Hudgins, “Praying Druck” stanza 1). This repetition of the sound contributes to the general mystery espoused in gothic poems.

This is evident In The Well in which the speaker feels a sense of fear and foreboding as he is lowered into the well. In Praying Drunk, it is the readers who are scandalized at the audacity of the speaker in addressing God in such an irreverent manner.

The use of alliteration in these poems is also significant. Instances include: “swung… struck”, “my… missing” in In The Well (Hudgins, “In the Well” stanza 2 and 5) and “prayer … praise” in Praying Drunk (Hudgins, “Praying Druck” stanza 1).

Alliteration is effective in these poems because it enhances the rhythm and musicality therein. It renders the poems easy to read as it is presented in narrative form. This is also an aspect of gothic poetry.

Gothic tone is presented in the poems in several ways. First is through the choice of words. Certain words used in the poems are distinctly gothic. They include “dreary” “dark”, “loneliness” (Hudgins, “Praying Druck” stanzas 2 and 3). Similarly, In The Well has the following: “darkness” and “death”. These words lent a rather melancholic tone to the poems.

Gothic tone has also been achieved through the appropriate use of a regular rhyme scheme as is evident in In The Well. It has also been achieved though repetition of the “a” sound, which is used to create an eerie atmosphere needed in gothic poetry. Alliteration also adds to the realization of the melancholic tone.


Poe and Hudgins use the narrative style in rendering their poems. The importance of this approach is to create a continuous flow of events in the poem (Barnard and Winn, p. 767). This would appeal to more poetry readers as they will be able to easily relate with them and appreciate them conclusively.

I have studied these poems because they portray gothic effects in a more poignant manner as compared to other poems by the same poets, or even others. Their use of rhyme, sounds, alliteration and choice of words has been hugely successful in depicting the gothic tone. Poe and Hudgins can be considered then as influential gothic poets.

Works Cited

Barnard, Barbara and Winn, David F. Access Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. Print.

Hudgins, Andrew. In the Well. PoemHunter.com, 2002. Web. <>.

Praying Drunk, The Never-Ending, 1991. Web. <>.

Poe, Edgar Allan. Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Special Edition Series. Wordsworth Editions, 2004. Print.

A Dream. PoemHunter.com, 2002. Web. <>.

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