Definition of Horror
Horror is one of the fiction genres that includes paranormal beyond scientific knowledge. Although horror means strong feelings of fear, fright, shock, or terror, it falls into the literary realm as a type of narrative. It evokes strong feelings of shock, terror, revulsion, fear, or outrage when readers go through such a narrative. It means horror fiction that intends to create fear in the minds of the readers. Some readers want such fiction that could satisfy their desire for terror and horror.
Types of Horror Fiction
There are several types of horror fiction. For example, some fictive narratives are termed comedic horror while some are dark fantasies. Some are gothic in nature while others are paranormal as well as futuristic, psychos, and post-apocalyptic. In fact, there are as many types of subgenres of horror fiction as many types of fear or terror.
Examples of Horror in Literature
I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. There was a dog howling all night long under my window, which may have had something to do with it; or it may have been the paprika, for I had to drink up all the water in my carafe, and was still thirsty. Towards morning I slept and was wakened by the continuous knocking at my door, so I guess I must have been sleeping soundly then.
This passage occurs in the novel, Dracula, written by Bram Stoker. The narrator narrates his ordeal of how he is dreaming and how the howl of a dog terrifies him. The narrator is of the view that despite having drunk to his full, he feels thirsty. This shows that he is constantly undergoing fear and terror which are the first requisite of a good horror story. Therefore, Dracula has been termed the best horror fiction of its time.
A few incidents now and then directed me, and I possessed a map of the country; but I often wandered wide from my path. The agony of my feelings allowed me no respite; no incident occurred from which my rage and misery could not extract its food; but a circumstance that happened when I arrived on the confines of Switzerland, when the sun had recovered its warmth and the earth again began to look green, confirmed in an especial manner the bitterness and horror of my feelings.
Although Frankenstein is not a horror story, still the issues with Frankenstine involving the Monster that he has created create horror and terror in the hearts of the readers. For example, in this narrative, the Monster tells how he feels when he visits different places in search of his creator, Victor Frankenstein, from whom he is seeking revenge for creating him in this world where he has undergone only misery and sufferings. This creates horror and terror in the minds of the readers.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The old gentleman took a step back, with the air of one very much surprised and a trifle hurt; and at that Mr. Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth. And next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot and hailing down a storm of blows, under which the bones were audibly shattered and the body jumped upon the roadway. At the horror of these sights and sounds, the maid fainted.%
This passage shows an incident where Mr. Jekyll, after having turned into Mr. Hyde, comes out of his house and confronts an old man to whom he clubs to death. Following this, he tramples upon his victim and runs away. This entire scene, when read in loneliness, makes the readers have their hairs stand on their ends. It is because it creates fear and terror in the minds of the readers about the features as well as actions of Mr. Hyde.
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
In he came then, the thane’s commander,
the arch-warrior, to address Hrothgar:
his courage was proven, his glory was secure.
Grendel’s head was hauled by the hair,
dragged across the floor where the people were drinking,
a horror for both queen and company to behold.
They stared in awe. It was an astonishing sight
These lines occur in Beowulf, a classical Anglo-Saxon epic. The lines tell how Hrothgar, the brave Dane, fights against Grendel and after beheading him, brings his head before the king, Hrothgar. As he is shown dragging the head in these lines, it seems quite a horrible scene. Therefore, this side of the epic shows it as a horror narrative, the reason that it has been placed in this genre.
Both the tank and the hothouse were undamaged today. He went to the house for a hammer and nails. As he pushed open the front door, he looked at the distorted reflection of himself in the cracked mirror he’d fastened to the door a month ago. In a few days, jagged pieces of the silver-backed glass would start to fall off. Let ‘em fall, he thought. It was the last damned mirror he’d put there; it wasn’t worth it. He’d put garlic there instead. Garlic always works.
This passage occurs in the novel, I Am Legend. Richard Matheson presents Robert Nevill who feels that vampires are almost everywhere. But when he sees his own reflection in the mirror, he is filled with horror. The mention of Garlic that also occurs in Dracula seems an antidote against the vampires. That is why this novel is placed under this genre.
Functions of Horror
Although horror in horror fiction is a source of entertainment, it sometimes releases the pent-up emotions of the readers after which they feel relieved. Some readers merely go through horror fiction to experience horror, though, such readers generally feel fear and terror after reading the story. Overall, its function is just entertainment and nothing else.