The Gothic novel developed in the last decades of the 18th century and the term "Gothic" indicated what was medieval, and represented excess, the wild and the dark. The most common features of this literary genre were:
- great importance given to terror and horror: the former characterized by obscurity and uncertainty, and the latter by evil and atrocity;
- the setting night because darkness is a powerful element to create an atmosphere of gloom, oppression and mystery;
- use of isolated castles, mysterious abbeys and convents with hidden passages, dungeons and secret rooms;
- complex plots, often complicated by embedded narratives;
The characters tended to be stereotypes: the heroine was usually a shy, helpless young woman, who is dominated by exagerated passions and fears, fear of imprisonment, of rape and personal violation. The villain was the most fascinating character: he was cruel and cynical, however, often handsome and irresistibile to women.
The Gothic novels aimed to arouse fear in the reader as a spur to fulfill the full potentialities of the mind beyond reason and as happens in the medieval novels, the protagonists want to go over the human limits to control the nature.