Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Analyzing Horror Fiction: Classic Horror

A guide to critical analysis of both classic and contemporary horror fiction

Introduction

This section contains both recommendations for classic horror novels as well as accompanying analyses of those novels to exemplify the complexity of books in this genre.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula

This 1897 gothic horror novel in epistolary format tells the story of Count Dracula, a vampire who moves from Transylvania to England in search of new blood and clashes with a Professor named Van Helsing who tries to protect other humans from him. The writing style and adult characters may be more interesting for readers in high school or later. The novel is in the public domain and is widely available for free online and at most libraries.

"Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!"


 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein

Frankenstein is a gothic horror and science fiction novel written in 1818. It is about Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who attempts to create human life but accidentally creates a "hideous" creature, who then flees in search of acceptance. The novel is written in epistolary format, in the form of letters from Captain Robert Walton that describe the tale of Victor Frankenstein, as well as the perspective of Frankenstein's monster. This novel is commonly taught to high school students with a teacher's guidance but is appropriate for older readers. The novel is in the public domain and can be read for free online as well as in most libraries. 

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”


 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Lewis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

This gothic horror novella published in 1886 is about a lawyer investigating the relationship between his old friend Dr. Jekyll and Edward Hyde, who is rumored to have committed evil acts, only to later find out that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person and can change into one another by drinking a special serum. This book is commonly taught in high schools as a vehicle for discussing the duality of human nature, but can also be appreciated by older readers. The novella is in the public domain and can be widely read for free online, as well as in most libraries.

“All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.”



 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Analysis of Dracula

Productive Fear: Labor, Sexuality, and Mimicry in Bram Stoker's Dracula

This article examines the vampire fighters (“Crew of Light”) in Stoker’s Dracula, arguing that their work ethic is the result of “fear aroused by the paranoiac perception of sexual perversity,” an anxiety which is tied to common fears of losing English culture during the growth of the British Empire in 1870-1900. This article was published in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, a peer-reviewed academic journal from the University of Texas Press, and is available with a subscription to JSTOR. It is best suited for readers familiar with British history, but can be read by any interested adult.

Link to article


Attention, Predation, Counterintuition: Why Dracula Won't Die

This article discusses the reasons for Dracula’s lasting popularity, positing that the book initially resonated with readers because it reflected late-Victorian cultural anxieties and remains popular because of Stoker’s writing strategies designed to sustain attention. This article was published in Style, a peer-reviewed academic journal from Penn State University Press, and the author has a PhD in English with a specialization in biocultural examination of horror. The article is available with a subscription to JSTOR. The article is lengthy but tone and vocabulary accessible for a wide audience. 

Link to article

Frankenstein Analysis

Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel

This article examines past analyses of Frankenstein as a feminist work and posits that the novel’s feminine undertones arise from the subversion of patriarchal narrative conventions. In other words, the author “decenters” men through the structure of multiple unreliable narrators. This article was published in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, an award-winning journal and the first devoted solely to women’s literature. It can be read with a subscription to JSTOR through Simmons University. The article is relatively brief and straightforward, accessible to both scholars and those with a casual interest in the topic.

Link to article


Horror's Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve

This article argues that Frankenstein is a parody of Paradise Lost, attempting to depict hell rather than heaven, and equating the feminine to hell and the masculine to heaven. It also examines Shelley’s motivations for writing Frankenstein in the context of women’s roles in society at that time. This article was published in Feminist Studies, the first scholarly journal in women’s studies. It is available with a subscription to JSTOR through Simmons University. The article is best read with some knowledge of Paradise Lost, and the vocabulary and density of topics covered may appeal most to researchers. 

Link to article


Analysis of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Addiction in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

This article posits that the central characters in the novel are not Jekyll and Hyde but rather Jekyll and Utterson, with Utterson as an immovable contrast to Jekyll’s addiction to his serum. It argues that Jekyll’s struggles are representative of the complex and misunderstood nature of addiction today. This article was published in Victorian Review, by the reputable John Hopkins University Press. The language is accessible to non-experts, making the article readable for adults with any scholarly interest. It is available with a subscription to JSTOR through Simmons University.

Link to article


Carrying On Like a Madman: Insanity and Responsibility in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

This article examines how in in the text, Dr. Jekyll uses his “madness” to absolve himself of responsibility for wrongdoings, and analyzes this argument from through both medical and legal lenses, arguing that because the author was a lawyer and aware of the legal implications of such an argument, his work can be read as an argument against broadening the definition of insanity to absolve wrongdoers of culpability. This article was published in Nineteenth-Century Literature, a journal published by the reputable University of California Press. Though it deals with both medical and legal terms, the article is primarily about morality and is thus accessible to a wide audience beyond scholars or field experts. It is available through a subscription to JSTOR through Simmons University.

Link to article

Analysis of the Haunting of Hill House

Walking Alone Together: Family Monsters in "The Haunting of Hill House"

This article explores how Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House reflected postwar American anxieties about the modern family, namely that “obsessive parenting” and fighting for dominance leads to the demise of the ideal family unit as imagined by American society and parodied by the group of undead that haunt Hill House. Though lengthy, this article requires little prior knowledge and is accessible to patrons of many backgrounds. It is from the journal Studies in the Novel by the reputable Johns Hopkins University Press, and is available with a subscription to JSTOR.

Link to article

Analysis of Something Wicked This Way Comes

Ray Bradbury and Fantasy

This overview of Ray Bradbury’s career and inspirations explores the themes of his most popular works, paying particular attention to the theme of the carnival and what it reveals about Bradbury’s thoughts on coexisting with evil. It also discusses Bradbury’s feelings on the changing distinction between fantasy and science fiction, both of which he wrote. This article is from The English Journal, published by the National Council of Teachers of English. It is available with a subscription to JSTOR, and the straightforward language makes it accessible to adult readers of many backgrounds.

Link to article