Gothic Literature

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The Dictation of Genre: Respective Failures and Successes of Communication in Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” and Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Both Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” and Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” involve women artists as their main characters—The Lady of Shalott weaves artful, colorful webs and the narrator in “The Bloody Chamber” is a talented pianist—making them prime candidates for comparison. In Tennyson’s poem, communication breaks down between reality and art, as manifested in the mediation of the Lady’s mirror. In Carter’s story, there seems to be a more exclusive relationship between reality and art, as manifested in the blind piano-tuner who eventually becomes the narrator’s savior. The shift in art’s relationship with reality, in communication breakdown to the success of communication, in these two pieces reflects the differing attitudes of Victorian and Postmodernist writers to language and communication.

In Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott,” the Lady knows that she is cursed and must not “look down to Camelot” (41), but “she knows not what the curse may be” (42). That is, the Lady is not sure of what, exactly, the curse entails and therefore witnesses the city’s events through a mediated source—a mirror—and is never fully able to witness reality. The Lady abides by the curses vague bylaws, avoids looking directly at the scene below her window, and weaves her webs by watching scenes unfold through the mirror. Communication breaks down here between the Lady of Shalott and reality; her work only represents “shadows” of reality (48). The mirror through which the Lady glimpses life and reality robs the events and people she sees of their authenticity and tangibility, leaving the Lady with mere silhouettes, fabrications of the real world.

This form of pseudo-reality leaves the Lady disgruntled and unsatisfied, to the point where she says: “‘I am half-sick of shadows’” (71). The Lady of Shalott realizes this breakdown in communication and grows tired of her false reality, yearning for the actual picture of life that is opened outside her window. The Lady is the ultimate Victorian figure, sequestered to her lonely tower, completely unattainable and tragically curse to never fully glimpse the life that thrive around her. She is the epitome of the Victorian woman, and her artwork, which necessitates communication breakdown, is the epitome of Victorian art.

If the Lady is supposed to represent the artist, we see how mediated reality affects works of art. The “web” that the Lady “weaves” (64-5-65) is the result of her labors, but is not the whole of her art. The mirror plays an especially important role in the relay of object to subject, of reality to art. That is, the mirror—the inherent source of communication breakdown—is an integral part of an artist’s work. In terms of the Victorian artist, this communication breakdown is necessary in order to allow for the presence of the audience or viewer. The very nature of art is the mediation of reality; that is, art is art because it is not reality, but rather a representation of it. Art is the subject, not the object. There is room for and even a requirement of interpretation. The audience becomes the most important aspect of an art piece because it reconciles this break down of communication. When one examines a piece of art, something is mended—the artwork is granted its essence because a viewer projects meaning or significance. To say that artwork is inherently meaningful negates the position of the viewer. That is, art necessitates the viewer to reconcile the communication breakdown that occurs between reality and representation because it cannot do that in and of itself. Victorian art begs the question, If a tree falls in the middle of the woods with nobody around, will it make a sound? According to the Lady’s artwork and the communication breakdown that occurs which, in turn, necessitates a viewer, the answer to the above question would be, No.

This relationship between art and its audience then leads one to reconsider the relationship of the Lady of Shalott to her own artwork—her webs—and what role communication breakdown plays in her, as well as the Victorian artist’s, fate. The Lady is her only audience, making the cycle of reality, mediation, art, and audience internal and self-sufficient. There is no room for interpretation because the only audience to the artwork is its very creator. In this sense, the Lady of Shalott’s artwork fails because it does not successfully mediate the necessary communication breakdown on which art relies; that is, the audience has no agency because the artwork’s only audience, in this case, is the artist, herself.

Once the Lady of Shalott breaks the rule of mediation, however, the curse of mortality falls upon her and she eventually dies, though it is only then that her artwork leaves the unyielding loom behind, freed from predetermination and eligible to be interpreted fully through the formerly-absent communication breakdown. As the Lady of Shalott spies Lancelot moving through her mirror, she leaves the web and the loom behind to look out the window and glimpse reality. In doing so, the Lady upsets her loom and artwork: “out flew the web and floated wide; / the mirror cracked from side to side” (114-115). In disobeying the mandates of her curse, the constraints of her artwork, the Lady unconsciously frees her art, letting it “fly” and “float wide.” Furthermore, the mirror—the source of mediation—cracks and is destroyed because there is no longer a need for such mediation. The Lady is no longer bound to her art and her webs are free for interpretation; they are no longer objects but subjects and have transformed into true art because, finally, they allow for the communication breakdown to facilitate subjectivity and interpretation. Not until the webs were freed from their creator—until they became subjects to a breakdown of communication—could they fully realize their actual potential as art.

The utility and status of communication in “The Bloody Chamber” is very different from the communication breakdown that occurs in “The Lady of Shalott,” though it maintains the same sort of strident adherence to its genre’s—the postmodern—bylaws. In Carter’s short story, the art of the narrator, a talented pianist, communicates clearly and efficiently to her future lover, a blind piano tuner. While the piano tuner’s disability should limit the power and agency of art, making communication near impossible and, therefore, incurring a communication breakdown, the power of the narrator’s art makes communication possible, even unstoppable.

In the house of her new husband, the young, na?ve narrator of “The Bloody Chamber” sits down to play at her very own piano to find that “only a series of subtle discords flowed from beneath [her] fingers” (16). The narrator continues, asserting that the piano is “only a little out of tune,” but that she had “been blessed with a perfect ear and could not bear to play anymore” (16). Whereas the Lady of Shalott toils away in her tower, limited by and obedient to the curse that constricts both her and her art and, consequently, tailoring her art to reality, Carter’s narrator tailors reality to her art, making successful communication possible.

By insisting on hiring a piano tuner, though “sea breezes are bad for pianos” (16), the narrator tailors reality to her art and, consequently, encounters her future lover, the piano tuner, who eventually serves as an example of how successful communication through art can be. After hearing the narrator play, Jean-Yves, the blind piano tuner, falls in love with her art and with her. We know that Carter’s narrator is a young, na?ve virgin and that her heart is playful, but pure. Her art successfully communicates her virtue to the piano tuner, and there is not a communication breakdown that occurs, but rather a direct transfer of meaning from the artist to the audience. The communication breakdown in “The Lady of Shalott” was necessary because of the artistic medium—webs or weavings—and the ideals of Victorian literature: unobtainable objectives and external inspirations. The success of communication in “The Bloody Chamber” is partially contributed to the art form—music—but also to the ideals of postmodernist literature: that, when taken at face value, art is perhaps the only true form of communication because it defies all laws of traditional values.

After Carter’s narrator has witnessed the brutality of her new husband, she returns to her place of solace—her piano room—where Jean-Yves eavesdrops on her playing. He tells the narrator of his love for her art, flattering her: “When I heard you play this afternoon, I thought I’d never heard such a touch. Such technique. A treat for me, to hear a virtuoso!” (32). He knows that she is distraught after finding the bloody chamber and “some intuition [tells him that the narrator] could not sleep and might, perhaps, pass the insomniac hours at [her] piano” (31). In a time of confusion and unrest, Jean-Yves assumes that the narrator will resort to the clarity and efficiency of her art because the certainty and security it provides is enticing. The narrator’s art communicates clearly and fluently the intentions and attitudes of the artist. It is not a mere reflection of reality, as it is in the webs of “The Lady of Shalott,” but rather the creation of reality. Art has far more agency and effectiveness in communication in postmodernist literature, as seen in “The Bloody Chamber,” than it does in Victorian literature.

In both texts, however, the art and resulting forms of communication, or lack thereof, are not intended for a specific audience. Both the Lady of Shalott and Carter’s narrator perform their artistic tasks for themselves, yet the artwork Carter’s narrator manages to communication successfully, albeit unintentionally, to her audience—her true love. As her murderous husband prepares to decapitate her, Jean-Yves stands by the narrator, knowing he can do nothing to save her, but willing to risk his life for her. Their link is the earnest, successful communication that developed from the narrator’s artwork.

The successfulness of communication is plainly manifested in the fates of the two women. The Lady of Shalott, her artwork suffering from a cycle of disrupted and incomplete communication breakdown, dies in a boat that is slowly floating toward the man she loves. The narrator of “The Bloody Chamber,” however, survives her murderous husband by means of the successful nature of her communication. She unknowingly but effectively uses her artwork—her music—to connect with Jean-Yves, who ends of being her lifelong lover and husband. The fates of these two women are undeniably tied to their art and the effectiveness of the communication that stems from such artwork.

Communication’s shift from breakdown to success is paramount in elucidating the shift in the perception of artwork from Victorian views to postmodern views. That is, “The Lady of Shalott” showcases the communication breakdown between reality and art because Victorian artwork is based in subjectivity, thus necessitating a communication breakdown, where the audience is in a position of power and utility. In “The Bloody Chamber,” a postmodern text, art clearly communicates emotion and circumstance, making the communication between reality and art far more immediate and successful. While Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” and Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” involve two different representations of communication via artwork, they are both representative of their respective literary genres—Victorianism and postmodernism—and serve as effective examples of the evolution of communicative methods and tendencies throughout literature.

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When the Romantic and Gothic Traditions Meet

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

From the late-eighteenth to the early-nineteenth century, known as the Romantic period, there existed a shift in some cultural and artistic elements that leaned towards a revival of the Gothic. As well as a revival of the Gothic through architectural adaptations in England, writers in particular began to enjoy incorporating elements of the Gothic aesthetic into their works, thus beginning a mergence of the two styles. The imagery associated with the Gothic was seen to be so distinct and carried a certain essence that its use, whether inspired politically, socially, architecturally, culturally, or spiritually, made for an interesting and unique collection of literary works.

In order to better understand the correlation between the Romantic and the Gothic, it is first necessary to understand the basics and the complexes of defining both of these terms. In the simplest of terms, the Oxford Companion to English Literature defines Romanticism as “the triumph of the values of spontaneity, visionary originality, wonder, and emotional self-expression over the classical standards of balance, order, restraint, proportion, and objectivity…[it] derives from ‘romance’, the literary form in which desires and dreams prevail over everyday realities” (Oxford Companion to English Literature). Such prominent authors of the Romantic period include William Wordsworth, William Blake, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

To attempt to define the Gothic aesthetic, one must first define what is actually Gothic. The Oxford Companion to English Literature defines the Gothic literary tradition as “a distinct modern development in which the characteristic theme is the stranglehold of the past upon the present, or the encroachment of the ‘dark’ ages of oppression upon the ‘enlightened’ modern era…embodied typically in enclosed and haunted settings such as castle, crypts, convents, or gloomy mansions, in images of ruin and decay, and in episodes of imprisonment, cruelty, and persecution” (Oxford Companion to English Literature). It defines the term Gothic itself to mean ‘medieval, and by implication barbaric” (The Oxford Companion to English Literature). The Gothic revival includes that which reminisces or reminds of the past, socially, culturally, architecturally, and spiritually. It simultaneously allowed for a clashing of the old with the new in the creation of contemporary works, combining the historic with the modern, for a new ‘vintage’. Concepts, ideas, fears, emotions, opinions and morals that existed in the more medieval Gothic ages still existed in the Romantic period, so writers of the new gothic could take these traditional topics and find a new way to retell them to the readers. Ideals commonly associated with the Gothic revival are medeivalism, barbarism, and supernaturalism. Instituted largely with the use of the supernatural, or that which seemed supernatural but would later be found to me natural, people were reminded of their God-fearing and superstitious feelings, and of the presence of the ‘other’. As David Hume puts it, the Gothic novel “can be seen as one symptom of a widespread shift away from neoclassical ideals of order and reason, toward romantic belief in emotion and imagination” (Hume 282). Some Gothic works, which are to be discussed further, include Samuel Colderidge’s “Christabel”, John Keats’ “The Eve of St Agnes”, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, is considered to be the first Gothic novel, pioneering the way for other modern additions to the Romantic genre. Walpole himself, a staunch enthusiast of the Gothic revival, even had his own medieval-style castle constructed, following the inspiration of the Gothic architecture.

The relationship between the Romantic period and the Gothic revival can be discussed through the ways in which one inspired or interacted with the other. However, much difficulty arises in attempting to distinctly distinguish the connections between the Gothic influence on the Romantic and as Michael Gamer explains “what we have, then, are borrowings that cannot be explained exclusively in terms of influence, whether passive or active, individual or cultural…the relation of Gothic to Romantic ideology is itself a Gothic one, since Gothic’s presence in Romantic writing is characterized by ‘multiple interpretations…[of] multiple modes of consumption and production, [of] dangerous consumptions and excessive productivity, and [of] economies of meaning” (Gamer 28). Everything is subject to interpretation. Though it is difficult to distinguish where exactly the influence is, it is still possible to see the connections and assess the relationship that way. The presence of the Gothic, whether architectural, spiritual, cultural, social, or political is unmistakable within some romantic works, so it is an explorable subject.

The Romantic writers wanted to recognize growth and life and beauty, strike up emotions with readers, make them feel something new or something old. It didn’t necessarily matter as long as they were stimulated to feel or to react or to respond. David Hume discusses their relationship by suggesting that “gothic and romantic writing spring alike from a recognition of the insufficiency of reason or religious faith to explain and make comprehensible the complexities of life” (Hume 290). People are always looking for reasons and explanations to life’s questions and problems, and that which is inexplicable arouses feelings of resentment and anger. In having the Gothic influence their Romantic writing, authors were able to provide readers with the possibility of relief from these feelings. Hume further notes that while “Romantic writing reconciles the discordant elements it faces, resolving their apparent contradictions imaginatively in the creation of a higher order…Gothic writing, the product of serious fancy, has no such answers and can only leave the ‘opposites’ contradictory and paradoxical. In its highest forms romantic writing claims the existence of higher answers where Gothic can find only unresolvable moral and emotional ambiguity” (Hume 290). What better way to evoke religious presence in a reader than with a supernatural entity, hauntingly invisible yet so fearfully real. Just as with religion, one cannot visibly see it, but its presence is felt indefinitely.

In regards to the reception of the Gothic aesthetic within the Romantic period, attitudes towards the style varied. Some thought it to be too into the past, reminiscent of the barbaric and dark times of history. It represented decay and destruction, ignorance, cruelty and persecution. Some believed looking back didn’t allow forward movement. For others, the Gothic was “a vehicle for the transmission of a forward-looking mentality through the unenlightened middle ages” (Dugget 59). Some accepted these images of decay and destruction and used them towards seeing a new and brighter future; it was map of how far society had come. In moving forward, one must remember where they came from to know how far they’ve come. Either way it was a reminder of the medieval and more archaic times in English history, but whether that reminder provided one with a positive outlook for the future, or with profoundly negative memories of the past depended upon the individual. Michael Gamer acknowledges that “it is gothic’s ease of dispersal and ability not to stay within the confines of prose romance- its habit of collapsing disciplinary and social categories, however gendered or polarized- that constituted one of the primary threats to the reviewers who condemned it” (Gamer 4). In regards to Walpole’s reception in particular, E.J. Clery notes that Walpole’s “contemporaries [viewed] the Gothic age [as] a long period of barbarism, superstition, and anarchy [that] dimly stretched from the fifth century AD…to the Renaissance and the revival of classical learning…[and that] ‘Gothic’ also signified anything obsolete, old-fashioned, or outlandish” (Clery 21). People wanted to read new material and the idea that Walpole had written a Gothic story begged the question of its modernity. People have always had an obsession with ‘newness’ and originality, and the assumptions and associations that accompanied the term “Gothic”, especially when used in his title The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story, generated a feeling of aversion towards the idea of Gothic literature. If one can assume that “only if a fiction is true to life can it become the vehicle of useful instruction or moral improvement”, than some wondered at what would be the benefit in reading a story where the moral is learned with the use of supernatural interference from some unknown entity (Clery 22).

Since the medieval Gothic is associated with a period of anarchy, its revival caused political concern and disapproval because of the fear of some form of political dissent. Coupled with the then-current political issues in England, “Gothic fiction and drama were perceived as threats to political and social order” (Gamer 31). Nonetheless, though this discouraged some from accepting it, its cultural, architectural, and spiritual influences were easier to receive.

Samuel T. Coleridge’s “Christabel” was written in two parts, written in 1797 and 1800, respectively. The poem is an exemplar of the Gothic’s influence of the Romantic. In the poem, Christabel is a maiden wandering through the woods in the middle of the night when she comes upon Geraldine laying tied up on the ground, claiming to have been a victim of kidnapping. Christabel brings Geraldine to her father Sir Leoline’s castle to give her sanctuary,whereupon they discover Geraldine to be the daughter of Leoline’s old enemy Roland. When Christabel begins to suspect Geraldine of trickery and deceit, before she is able to alert her father, she finds herself under a spell of Geraldine’s that won’t allow her to inform her father. Eventually Christabel breaks free of the spell, but upon informing her father, finds he refuses to believe her, accepting Geraldine and shutting out Christabel.

The poem employs traditional Gothic elements, from setting to psychology. The speaker notes that “Tis middle of night by the castle clock” and that “The night is chilly, but not dark/ The thin gray cloud is spread on high,/ it covers but not hides the sky./ The moon is behind, and at the full” (Colerdige 1,14-18). The very beginning of the poem occurs in the dark woods, setting up an eerily haunting setting where the reader can predict some forthcoming event. It creates an atmosphere of apprehension as Christabel is depicted wandering through foggy mists and shadowy moonlight. The tension builds as the reader waits in anticipation, expecting something as the narrator asks “Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?/There is not wind enough in the air…Hush beating heart of Christabel!/ Jesu, Maria, shield her well!” (Coleridge 45-57). This seemingly unearthly presence invokes the fear of the supernatural, questioning what type of existence is near. Upon the initial discovery of Geraldine by the tree, it appears the source was a victimized maiden, but as the poem advances Geraldine’s own corporeal reality is questioned and she becomes the source of the seemingly supernatural activity.

The reader becomes further suspect of Geraldine as she begs Christabel to “Have pity on my sore distress/ I scarce can speak for weariness:/Stretch forth thy hand, and have no fear!” (Coleridge 73-76). As Geraldine recounts the strange details of her kidnapping to Christabel something comes off awry, though what exactly that is, is difficult to tell. Geraldine seems suspicious and contradictory in her stories, and though it seems it could be a result of her distress, it instills a feeling of distrust in the reader. Something is off about the woman and her story. The supernatural is again suggested when the two women go to sleep together and Geraldine almost gives off the appearance of being a seductress of sorts as she settles in to lay beside Christabel and tells her “In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell,/ Which is lord of they utterance, Christabel!/ Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know to-morrow,/ This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow” (Coleridge 257-260). There already seemed some sort of sorcery surrounding Geraldine, so hearing her mention it to Christabel arouses more fear in her intentions with the innocent maiden. The supernatural element is constantly mentioned or suggested, but never flat out revealed. When Christabel awakes and “Gathers herself from out her trance”, and later becomes aware of Geraldine’s serpentine traits as “A snake’s small eye blinks dull and shy/ And the lady’s eyes they shrunk in her head/ Each shrunk up to a serpent’s eye/ And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread/ At Christabel she looked askance!” (Coleridge 573-577). Even the way the Leoline seems so readily enraptured by Geraldine suggests her to be of the supernatural, a siren of some sort. The notion that she could be supernatural, but the fact that it is never stated in the poem is even more frightening. It would be less frightening to know for sure if she is an evil unearthly entity, or just appears as such. Such a haunted setting, the supernatural Geraldine with her deceit, Christabel’s imprisonment under the spell, and the castle are all typical characteristics of the Gothic aesthetic.

Using similar characteristics of the Gothic aesthetic as “Christabel”, John Keats’ “The Eve of St Agnes” is a romance story of two young lovers. The poem uses strong Gothic imagery to create an atmosphere for the poem. Madeline is a young maiden who is in love with Porphyro, the son of her family’s enemy. Before retiring to bed one night, Madeline decides try a ritual on St Agnes’ Eve whereby a young virgin’s lover will come to her while she is sleeping. That same night, Porphyro, with the reluctant help of Angela (at her own perilous cost), sneaks into Madeline’s room in order to watch her beauty as she sleeps. When Porphyro awakes Madeline from her dream, she become confused at the sudden change in Porphyro between Madeline’s dream version of him and him in reality. He then convinces her to run away with him, and they never see her family again.

Again there is the presence of superstition and of the appearance of the supernatural with the St Agnes’ Eve tradition and the knights visiting in dreams. With high hopes of receiving a visit from their lover, a virgin will go to bed without supper, be naked, and lie face up towards heaven. Madeline, as well as the other girls readily follow this superstition since they are so eager and desperate for interaction with their lovers. The atmosphere is also set up for the Gothic aesthetic as the narrator describes “The sculptur’d dead, on each side, seem to freeze,/ Emprison’d in black, purgatorial rails:/…To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails” (Keats 14-18). Gloom, ruin, and decay are represented by the worn down statues, frozen in time and place, blackened and cursed. This draws upon the gothic as an image the medieval. As with before, the presence of the supernatural is questionable, not absolute but enough to ponder it’s existence. Madeline does end up dreaming of Porphyro, so it is really superstition or was there really some intervention on behalf of St Agnes? It is even questionable with Angela, who reluctantly allows Porphyro into Madeline’s chambers, against her better judgements and wishes. She regrets having allowed him in, and in the end of the poem she ends up dead. Is this possibly some supernatural intervention punishing her for allowing a male into a naked virgin’s room whilst she dreams? It is enough to beg the question of the possibility of the supernatural. The narrator even suggests a supernatural element to Madeline and Porphyro themselves as “They glide, like phantoms, into the wide hall;/ Like phantoms, to the iron porch, they glide” where the repeated use of ‘phantoms’ suggests they really have passed into the supernatural, leaving the natural world entirely (Keats 361-362). One could even argue that they have actually become phantoms, unearthly creatures, suggesting some psychological repercussions of their pre-marital encounter. Perhaps Madeline has run off in her mind with the dream version of Porphyro, or perhaps Porphyro and she have passed into an otherworldly existence. Such psychological features, questioning sanity are also part of the Gothic’s aesthetic.

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, more commonly associated with being a feminist text because of its timing and influence in that area, has a storyline which revolves around the possibility of the existence of the supernatural. When Jane Eyre is hired as the new governess for Edward Rochester’s ward she begins falling in love with him, and strange happenings occur in the house. Since the story is told from Jane’s point of view, the reader is only aware of what she knows. A few times in the night Jane awakes to the feeling that someone is in her room, watching her; she even catches a glimpse at one point but is unsure of who or what she witnessed. In certain parts of the castle, Jane hears “the last sound I expected to hear in so still a region, a laugh, struck my ear. It was a curious laugh; distinct, formal, mirthless. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it began again, louder: for at first, though distinct, it was very low. It passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed to wake an echo in every lonely chamber” (Bronte 158). The eerie laugh follows Jane throughout the house, occasionally appearing at moments when it seems wrong and suspicious. The reader becomes aware of some unsettling feeling associated with its presence. Jane eventually believes this to be the the laughter of Grace Poole, a women she believes “possessed with a devil” (Bronte 221). As soon as Jane thinks it, the reader wonders at it too. Is she possessed by some unearthly monster? The story continues with feelings of apprehension and fear every time Jane enters certain parts of the house. Things become even more frightening when Rochester’s room is lit on fire, and Jane believes it to be the work of Grace. The ‘demon’ now has proven to be some sort of evil, and the rest of the novel leaves the reader in fear over what demonic crime will be next. The reader shares Jane’s fear and apprehension, not knowing for certain who or what is the cause of the violence. Even more so at the possibility that a worse attack is in the near future.

Further in the novel, a visitor is attacked in the night, stabbed and near death. Jane obediently helps as Rochester requests, and it becomes evident that Rochester doesn’t find such violent occurrences suspicious, suggesting he has something to hide. Suspicion of him grows until it turns out the culprit is not Grace Poole, but Rochester’s own demented wife, a hidden secret from the world. Having gone mad years earlier, Rochester chose to hide her from the world, and hired Grace Poole to look after her within the castle. The illusion of a supernatural element is shattered, but the fear remains with this individual who is so dangerous and violent. Thus, this is one of the moments where the seemingly supernatural turns out to be the natural.

Having been the first true Gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto encompasses a great deal of what is considered to be the Gothic’s aesthetic, from the imagery, to the architecture, to the psychological, to the supernatural, to the terror. As a Gothic novel it “is part of the new ‘literature of process’ which reflects its creator’s mind” and it “attempts to rouse the reader’s imaginative sympathies” (Hume 282). Manfred is owner of the castle and the master of the land and his son is killed on his wedding day when a gigantic helmet falls on him from the sky. In an attempt to maintain control over his land Manfred tries to divorce his faithful wife Hippolita for his late son’s fiancée Isabella. Isabella flees to a church for safety from the abominable idea of marrying her dead fiancé’s married father, and receives the aide of a prisoner named Theodore. The Castle of Otranto begins with the ominous prophecy “That the castle and lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it” (Walpole 17). Straight off from the beginning the novel seems prepared to proceed in a predetermined state of events, though they are yet unknown. The reader is hinted at the direction the novel will take. The curiosity surrounding the bizarre prophecy brings an element of mystery to the novel. What does the prophecy mean? Where did it come from? Will it come true? Does it come from divine or supernatural intervention? Mystery and uncertainty produce feelings of apprehension and fear, all of which aid to the construction of the Gothic aesthetic. That which is unknown prompts wonder and begs for answers. These questions have the reader wondering throughout the course of the novel.

The atmosphere and setting for the novel also encompass elements that form a Gothic aesthetic. The Gothic is “embodied typically in enclosed and haunted settings such as castle, crypts, [and] convents” (Oxford Companion to English Literature). Titled after the location, the Castle of Otranto is the most blatant use of the Gothic for the presence of the castle. When the townspeople are attempting to figure out what happened to Manfred’s son, they establish Theodore “has stolen the helmet from good Alfonso’s tomb, and dashed the brains of our young prince with it” thus bringing in the crypt. The place of sanctuary for the characters on the run, naturally, becomes the church; Isabella and Theodore both use it to escape the wrath of Manfred. All three structural elements that represent the Gothic aesthetic are used by Walpole in Otranto. Since his was the pioneering work for the genre, it is evident that his examples of these three are what later writers drew inspiration from.

Manfred himself encompasses the archaic notions of the Gothic since he ruled the land with the hand of tyranny, controlling everything, retaining power for himself and for his legacy. Alfred Longuiel’s definition applies perfectly to Manfred in that “the adjective ‘Gothic’ is employed as a definite and recognized synonym for barbarous. Most often this usage is in connection with ignorance, cruelty, or savageness, qualities associated with the inherited Renaissance view of the middle ages” (455). Manfred is a cruel and selfish ruler, concerned only with preserving his family’s name upon the throne. He cares not what the cost of power is or the consequences of his actions for others. He is the embodiment of barbaric rule. It is because of his tyrannic ways that the story unfolds as it does, as the consequences of all his actions finally catching up. Manfred had even imprinted Isabella’s “mind with terror, from his causeless rigor to such amiable princesses as Hippolita and Matilda” (Walpole 19). Terror is a common element of the Gothic aesthetic, used as an attempt to invoke morals. Manfred wrongfully imprison’s Theodore and sentences him to death, blaming him for the crushing death of his son. Such imprisonment is another common element of the Gothic. Such “terror dependent on suspense or dread is the modus operandi of the novels of Walpole…[it] holds the reader’s attention through dread of a series of terrible possibilities” (Hume 285).

The Gothic images of ruin and decay are portrayed through the collapse of Manfred’s power. His years of greed and tyrannical rule have returned for justice. The image of decay would not be complete however if it was only Manfred himself who suffers. After the loss of his only male heir, Manfred goes on to accidentally kill his own daughter, mistaking her for Isabella and stabbing her in a fit of jealous rage. This is the final piece of the collapse and after Manfred has lost everything, power is restored to the rightful person, Theodore. The prophecy had stated that when “the real owner should be grown to large” for the lordship, the new ruler would gain possession. The irony lies in that it is when Manfred has nothing left and lost his children that he has grown “too large” (Walpole 17).

Walpole’s Otranto “aimed at a medieval atmosphere by means of medieval background, -lonely castles, haunted towers, subterranean passages, knights in armor, magic. But to the reading public the outstanding feature of these stories appears to have been, not their gothic setting, but their supernatural incident” (Longeil 458). Walpole’s use of the supernatural is principally in the form of the frequently reappearing large parts of armor. His son is crushed by a giant helmet. One of the servants claims he witnessed a giant foot in the gallery chamber, while another, Bianca, sees a giant hand appear in another part of the castle. These gigantic pieces of body and armor have caused fear and unrest among the castle’s household. Multiple occupants have seen it, but no one can identify it. The mystery of it remains one of the main mysteries of the novel.

Other moments also suggest the supernatural; earlier Bianca claims to hear voices in the hallways and determines the castle to be haunted. At one point the “plumes on the enchanted helmet, which still remained at the other end of the court, were tempestuously agitated, and nodded thrice, as if bowed by some invisible wearer” (Walpole 53). Manfred’s fear of Theodore arises out of his uncanny similarities to the hanging portrait of Alfonso in the gallery, and Manfred himself even initially took Theodore for a specter. Even though it is discovered later that he is in fact a descendant of Alfonso, there is still an element of the supernatural carried within Theodore for the entirety of the novel. One wonder’s how it happened to be that even though he hadn’t a clue as to who his relations are, by some work of fate he manages to make his way to his rightful throne. The supernatural works with destiny in placing him there.

David Hume notes that the “prime feature of the Gothic novel…is its attempt to involve the reader in special circumstances” (Hume 286). It manages a striking new literary form, taking the Romantic period ideals and themes and incorporating the Gothic aesthetic for a profoundly unique style of literature. The gothic revival explored old elements in a new way. Revolving primarily around the creation of a brooding, dark, supernatural, and medieval atmosphere, the Gothic aesthetic worked its way into the Romantic period. Its classical yet somewhat archaic elements proved to be challenging in its overall reception. What did it really make people feel? Was the medieval a concept to be left behind, with the barbaric and tyrannical notions associated with it, or was it a concept to be remembered and drawn from, a reminder of forward steps. With distinct associations socially, politically, culturally, architecturally, and spiritually, the mere idea of the Gothic aesthetic worked towards what the Gothic aesthetic itself did: it got people to react, to feel, to respond. Prior to Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, there didn’t even exist the concept of a Gothic novel. His accomplishments with that novel paved the way for other Romantic writer’s to draw inspiration for new stories from the medieval ages, allowing for a reminder of what the medieval times were like, and how far England has come as a nation of growth.

Works Cited

  1. Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. London: Service & Paton, 1897. Print.
  2. Clery, E.J. “The genesis of ‘Gothic’ fiction.” Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. Ed. Jerrold E. Hogle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 21-39. Print.
  3. Colerdige, Samuel Taylor. “Christabel.” The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse. Ed. Jerome J. McGann. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. 376-393. Print.
  4. Duggett, Tom. Gothic Romanticism: Architecture, Politics, and Literary Form. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Print.
  5. Gamer, Michael. Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre Reception, and Canon Formation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print.
  6. “Gothic Fiction.” The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 2007. eBook.
  7. Hume, Robert D. “Gothic Versus Romantic: A Revaluation of the Gothic Novel.” PMLA 84.2 (1969): 282-290. JSTOR. Web. 21 Dec 2011.
  8. Keats, John. “The Eve of St Agnes.” The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse. Ed. Jerome J. McGann. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. 376-393. Print.
  9. Longueil, Alfred E. “The Word ‘Gothic’ in Eighteenth Century Criticism.” Modern Language Notes 38.8 (1923): 453-460. JSTOR. Web. 3 Jan 2012.
  10. “Romanticism.” The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 2007. eBook.
  11. Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto. London: Penguin Books, 2001. Print.
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Charles Brockden Brown’s Clara, an Archetype of the Classic Eighteenth-Century Woman

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Although Leslie A. Fiedler calls Charles Brockden Brown the “inventor of the American writer,” and sees the revolt of the European middle classes translating in America to “feminism and anti-intellectualism,” Brockden Brown seems to have a problem imbuing Clara, his narrator in Wieland, with these same qualities (145). From the one-line reference [in the Advertisement] to the book’s narration by “the lady whose story it contains,” to the final explanation of that narrator’s marriage to a man who placed her in an untenable (and life threatening) situation with his erroneous and unspeakable accusations, Charles Brockden Brown has created, in the character of Clara, an accurate representation of the predicament of the typical eighteenth-century American woman.

Despite the fact that Clara is allowed (by her brother) to live alone in her own cottage, called Mettingen, because of her desire to “administer a fund and regulate a household” of her own, it is a superficial independence at best. She is independently wealthy, through the inheritance left by her father, who gained his riches from the toil of slaves. Her residence is a scant three-quarters of a mile from her brother’s home and “the short distance allowed us to exchange visits as often as we pleased,” meaning her brother’s assistance lay a short distance from her front door (Brown 20). Clara does have male company come and go in her residence, but the visitor is chiefly Pleyel, her brother’s brother-in-law, and the man with whom she is secretly in love, (a woman of this era would never be the first to declare her feelings openly before receiving a similar declaration from the object of her affections!).

Despite Clara’s outward appearance as an intellectual woman with an interest in art, music and literature, she is nevertheless a sheltered, inexperienced woman, immured in a small corner of the world, surrounded by her brother, Theodore Wieland, his wife, Catherine, and Henry Pleyel. Other than the rare visit by an outsider that occasioned much excitement in the neighborhood, and an occasional visit by family acquaintances, Clara is isolated from the world-at large. This, then, makes the disaffection of Pleyel a much more earth-shattering experience when it occurs.

Although readers of Wieland know about the deception that leads to Pleyel’s antipathy toward Clara, she does not, and her reactions are that of a typically helpless eighteenth-century woman. She has no weapons to fight back with when Pleyel accuses her. “The matter–O Wretch!–thus exquisitely fashioned–on whom nature seemed to have exhausted all her graces; with charms so awful and so pure! How art thou fallen! From what height fallen! A ruin so complete–so unheard of” (Brown 95). After his hideous and shocking accusations, Pleyel leaves Clara standing in her home, confused and hurt by his perfidy. Where does she turn for comfort and assistance? She goes to her brother, Wieland, who assures her he believes in her integrity because she is his sister (Brown 101). When Wieland lets Clara know Pleyel had some sort of proof of her assignation with the enigmatic stranger, Carwin, she is distraught, because she has no way to prove her innocence. “What but my own assertion had I to throw in the balance against it? Would this be permitted to outweigh the testimony of his senses? I had no witnesses to prove my existence in another place”(Brown 102). Clara steps out of the role of the typical eighteenth-century woman when she determines to accost Pleyel in his own rooms to demand an explanation. A woman going to the room of a single man, unescorted, was a way to earn the reputation Pleyel had already attributed to her. But, alas, when she arrives and tries to reason an answer to the baffling question of what had so changed Pleyel’s attitude toward her, she is at a loss for an explanation when Pleyel, ever the one to resist any explanation that included the supernatural, or defied his senses, cannot be swayed . He accuses her anew, packs his belongings and leaves her standing there. And like any other well-mannered eighteenth-century female–she faints.(Brown 109-110).

Clara’s relationship with Pleyel is not the only one that demonstrates the weakness of her position. The desperate situation with her brother, the murderer of his own family, and the would-be murderer of Clara, is also beyond her control. She has no power to change his convictions that the voice of God instructed him to carry out his deadly misdeeds. And when Wieland finally comes for Clara, just after Carwin has given his limited explanation of what happened and his role in bringing it about, she is unable to take up the knife to defend herself against the male authority figure in her life2E She is shattered when he uses her knife to accomplish the deed she had considered and rejected (Brown 111-112).

Through much of the desperate time after her brother kills his family, Clara’s uncle shoulders the role of authority figure, assuming Clara is too weak to withstand the truth, and urging her to move to Europe with him. Certain that her life is nearly at an end, Clara gives her consent “merely because he was entitled to my gratitude, and because my refusal gave him pain” (Brown 169). She does finally go to Europe, following the death of her brother, and her own failure to die from the oppressive burdens she carried. It is while she is in Europe that she reunites with Pleyel. But no, it is not Clara who convinces him of her integrity. It is Carwin, the mysterious perpetrator of their sorrows, who seeks out Pleyel and confesses his part in the deception. Faced with a realistic rather supernatural explanation, Pleyel accepts the veracity of Clara’s innocence (Brown 218). This last chapter is a prime example of how women of this era held no power. Clara’s word, even though Pleyel claims to love her, is not good enough to convince him of her innocence. Her reputation must be restored by another man. Then, as though Pleyel had not nearly caused her death from the mental breakdown she suffered, Clara marries him. In the last chapter, even though she condemns her brother for not framing “juster notions of moral duty,” she allows Carwin to go free, and Pleyel to remain uncensured for his treatment of her–typical of her new position as a married woman. She cannot publicly castigate the man she is married to (Brown 223-224).

Charles Brockden Brown includes many elements of Romantic literature, the emphasis on the imagination, a predilection for the mysterious, the weird, the occult, the diseased, and even the Satanic, in the dark image of Carwin. He allows Clara, through his selected mode of storytelling, (epistolary) to examine the human personality, in search of spiritual and rational truths. Brown knew that “Romantic critics such as Schleiermacher called for readers’ sympathetic identification with the author” (Leitch 12). He understood that “writing books that sold required entertaining as well as edifying their readers” (Lauter 1233). Brown was astute enough to realize that the developing changes in the country after the American Revolution, with the advent of factories to manufacture the goods formerly produced by women in the home, created an audience of educated, idle women (Lauter 1243). With the restrictions society placed on eighteenth-century women preventing them from seeking employment outside the home, owning property, or participating in the political decisions of the country, Brown realized the majority of novel readers in that era were female, and he would need a strong, identifiable female narrator. However, in trying to write a popular novel which would appeal to female readers, he had to put himself in a woman’s shoes and try to bring out a more feminist perspective. Instead, Clara begins to sound like a woman writing like a man. In which case we have a “man, writing like a woman, writing like a man” (Aaij ).

Even though Brown does imbrue his Gothic tale with the darker elements of evil, and manages to “connect a bygone time with the very present,” and has “provided himself with a moral–the truth, namely, that the wrongdoing of one generation lives into the successive ones,” as Hawthorne believed a good Romance must do (7-8), he doesn’t succeed in connecting it to his supposed main character, Clara. Instead, the tortured past religious frenzy of her father and his strange death by spontaneous combustion is linked to the madness that envelops her brother Wieland. Throughout Wieland, readers are left asking just who is the main character? Is it the narrator, Clara, from whose viewpoint the story is told? Or is it Theodore Wieland, the title character to whom the subtitle The Transformation refers? Or is it Carwin, the evil persona who sets the entire sequence of evil events in motion with his strange vocal ability (Aaij )?

Charles Brockden Brown’s novel, Wieland, succeeds on the Gothic level, bursting with evil doings, mystical occurrences, tormented maidens, and the eventual triumph of love in the end. However, where he falls short of exemplifying the Romantic ideal is in the individualism, an important characteristic of Romantic fiction. Brown’s characters are “passive matter in his hands. He troubles himself little if any to individualize” (Duyckinck 8). His failure to actually create a strong, identifiable female character in Clara is most likely the reason he was not a financial success. And to follow Wieland with Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist is just another way of putting Clara back in her eighteenth-century place.

If Clara’s narrative is hemmed in by a title page on which she has no place, and an Advertisement in which she is only a point of view, she is also enclosed on the other side, for Brown’s intent is that she never have the last word; the end of the story is Carwin’s, whose autobiographical account gives him the last word–if Brown’s audience gives a favorable reception to Wieland (Aaij ).

Perhaps Brown himself made a distinction between Romanticism, which “designates a literary and philosophical theory that tends to see the individual at the center of all life” (Holman 416), and the romantic novel, which is “marked by strong interest in action, with episodes often based on love, [Clara and Wieland, Clara and Pleyel, Wieland and Catherine, Carwin and Clara] adventure, [Clara’s midnight rendezvous, her return to her home following the murders] and combat [Clara and Carwin’s confrontations, Wieland’s murders, his attempted murder of Clara, Clara and Pleyel’s arguments, Clara and her uncle’s disagreements]. . .a novel more concerned with action than with character” (Holman 416). If this is the case, then Charles Brockden Brown must be labeled a successful Romantic writer, albeit a less than technically skillful writer who fails to tie up loose ends [Louisa Conway]satisfactorily, and who fails at trying to speak from the heart and mind of a woman.

WORKS CITED

Aaij, Michael. “Charles Brockden Brown and Wieland’s Clara: A Man Writing Like a Woman

Writing Like a Man.” 33rd Annual Comparative Literature Symposium “Women in the Eighteenth Century.” Philadelphia. 27 Jan. 2000.

Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Duyckinck, Evert A. “Charles Brockden Brown.” Cyclopaedia of American Literature. New

York: C. Scribner, 1856.

Fiedler, Leslie A. Love and Death in the American Novel. Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 1997.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. House of Seven Gables. 1851.

Holman, C. Hugh, and William Harmon. A Handbook to Literature. 6th ed. New York:

Macmillan, 1992.

Lauter, Paul. “Early Nineteenth Century.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed.

Paul Lauter. Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Co., 1994. 1228-1262.

Leitch, Vincent B. “Introduction to Theory and Criticism.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and

Criticism. General Ed. Vincent Leitch. New York: W.W.Norton, 2001. 1-28.

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165

The Role of Family in Wieland and The Last of the Mohicans

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Roles of Family in Wieland and The Last of the Mohicans

“There is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

To be a master of the art of fiction is to be a master of the art of manipulation. I am referring not only to the manipulation of the mind of the reader, but also to the manipulation of characters, setting, plot, and perhaps most important, the manipulation of language. In order to successfully engage his or her audience, an author must establish an air of familiarity. When a reader is confronted with characters, situations, or places that they understand on a personal level, the purpose of the author’s words becomes increasingly more evident. One of the most effective manifestations of this idea of “familiarity” between the novelist and the reader is the element of family.

First, it must be stated that the two novels addressed in this essay are remarkably dissimilar. Though both novels are set in the mid-to-late 18th-century Northeastern United States, they differ drastically in style and form. Charles Brockden Brown is often described as the grandfather of American Gothic literature, and is credited with influencing the likes of Mary Shelley and Truman Capote. The works of James Fenimore Cooper, however (and specifically the five installments of his “Leatherstocking Tales”), are widely thought of as the foundations for later “frontier novels” and modern-day Western films. Though radically different in almost every other way, both authors utilize the effects of family in a similar fashion.

In the opening of Wieland, we receive a brief summary of the life and death of the father of Theodore and Clara Wieland (the novel’s narrator). While it may seem that this summary might serve as a tool to better the reader’s understanding of the Wielands, it in fact reveals very little about our characters. What is revealed in the summary, however, is a deep sense of isolation in the lives of Clara and Theodore Wieland resulting from the early loss of their parents. It soon becomes evident that the isolation experienced by the orphans gave birth to an ignorance that would plague their thinking for the rest of their lives. This is especially evident in the language used by Clara as she describes the years following the death of her parents:

The years that succeeded were tranquil and happy. Our lives were molested by few of those cares that are incident to childhood. By accident more than design, the indulgence and yielding temper of our aunt was mingled with resolution and steadfastness. She seldom deviated into either extreme of rigor or lenity. Our social pleasures were subject to no unreasonable restraints. We were instructed in most branches of useful knowledge, and were saved from the corruption and tyranny of colleges and boarding schools. (22)

The second biological family that we are introduced to in Wieland is the Pleyels, Catharine and Henry. The family dynamic of the novel is made all the more intricate by the fact that Theodore Wieland weds Catharine Pleyel. This detail combines both of these families into a small, isolated group of friends. Interestingly, with the introduction of Henry Pleyel on page 27, Clara begins referring to their group as a “society”. One would hardly consider a group of four individuals a society, yet Clara, ignorant of the depth of friendships in the outside world, considers “society” to be an apt title for the relationship between them.

It is with the appearance of Carwin, or rather the appearance of Carwin’s voice, that Clara’s “society” begins to fall apart. When Theodore swears that his wife’s voice resonates where she is not present, the four friends begin to lose trust in each other. Soon, Theodore begins to slowly but visibly lose his mind in a fashion that mirrors the prophetic fate of his father. Soon, Catharine is found dead and the friends are torn further apart. All of these events cause extreme emotions to arise in the heart of the reader.

This point recalls both the opening quote of this paper, and the aforementioned idea of “familiarity” in literature. If it were not for the extreme detail with which the characters are profiled, the identification of these characters as members of families, and the fact that the characters are painted in such a way that affects the reader to view them as “someone”, there would be little or no emotion created by the circumstances surrounding the characters’ fates. In other words, once the reader acknowledges a character as someone who is loved, someone with emotions, or someone who is a member of a family, the plight of said character evokes feelings that are comparable to the sentiment that would arise if the same fate was beset upon a living person.

This effect, which I will call “compassionate catharsis”, occurs multiple times in The Last of the Mohicans, even though the structure of family differs wildly from that of Wieland. This statement should not be deemed contradictory to my previous assertion that both Brown and Cooper utilize the effects of family in similar ways. We have seen that in Wieland, there are two biological families that create a small, isolated community. The irony of these two families is that they seem to have very little idea of what family really means. In The Last of the Mohicans, however, the two main families (the Munros and the Mohicans) are extremely close-knit. Not only do they know the meaning of the word “family”, but they also go to great lengths to keep their families intact. Regardless of the differences in the structure and idea of family from novel to novel, the same compassionate catharsis is achieved when a member of a family meets their doom. However, I believe that the numerous occurrences of compassionate catharsis in The Last of the Mohicans are intensified by the tremendous love that the characters show for each other throughout the novel.

The most powerful example of compassionate catharsis comes in the 32nd chapter of The Last of the Mohicans, with the murder of Cora Munro. When Uncas jumps down from the trees to rescue his lover, he frightens her captor (one of Magua’s men) and causes him to plunge his knife into Cora’s chest. Magua then stabs Uncas in the back; Uncas, however, recovers from the attack and succeeds in avenging Cora’s death just before he is stabbed three more times by the blade of Magua, who is then killed by Hawkeye. The following day, Cora and Uncas are buried side-by-side in a scene that remains one of the most beautiful ever put to paper.

In these two novels, the family serves as an emotional tie between reader and character. How these feelings manifest themselves depends on the psyche of the reader, but there is one thing that we can be sure of: a great novel holds remarkable power over humanity, allowing humans to feel emotions that transcend the reality of their present situation.

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107

Democracy’s Threat to Colonial Establishment

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The advent of democracy in America brought with it a slue of worries and concerns held by the newly independent colonists. Some felt like the lost, orphaned children of Great Britain while others pondered the uncertain future of the new nation. One of the gravest concerns was the novel threat democracy brought to civic order. Charles Brockden Brown, who authored Wieland, and Susanna Rowson, who penned Charlotte Temple, were both gravely distressed by rhetoric and persuasion, and how they might ultimately lead to deception. Brown employed a Gothic approach to explore how irrational forces could lead to fraud, while Rawson used sentimentality to explore how human feeling could create this same problem. They both used a female protagonist to embellish this weakness, as women were perceived to be the societal “weak link” of the new republic.

The 1790s was an age of passion. As more and more Americans became aware of their own inability to live up to the high expectations of the 1770s and 1780s, there evolved a distinct desire to rebuild and buttress the fragile social order. In Brown’s,Wieland, the fragility of the family — as well as its vulnerability to deception — was brought to life by the story of an agrarian family whose ultimate destruction is caused by the deception of a biloquist named Carwin. The rural family structure is disturbed by Carwin, who is a mysterious outsider from the city. The central thread of the book’s plot mirrors the vulnerability of democracy to deceptive rhetoric. The new republic was innately open and welcomed the fluidity of society and mixing of peoples caused by commerce and immigration. Although the new form of government was perceivably virtuous and noble, it allowed room for the deceptions of cosmopolitanism.

Some Americans at the time might have viewed cities with a cautious eye and worried if such metropolises could threaten the ideal of a yeomen republic. The agrarian lifestyle was seen to demonstrate the purest of virtue, while the urban environment was believed to foster the most sinful of vices. Brockden Brown employed Carwin, a city dweller, to represent the threat metropolitan areas had on the rural.

The book’s gothic nature also warns of irrational forces as a means of deception and misguidance. Wieland and Clara’s father instilled in them an enthusiastic religious background — one which later drove Wieland to kill own his wife and children. Brown used this element of the novel to show the danger of such religious devotions as well as the danger in relying solely on faith without consulting human reason.

Rowson’s Charlotte Temple is another piece of literature from the new public that expresses the concern some Americans had regarding the new democratic government. In the novel, a young girl falls victim to the rhetoric and charm of a man named Montraville. She abruptly departs from her family in England and follows the British army officer to New York, where he cruelly abandons her. The tragic tale ends with Charlotte’s death at the age of nineteen.

The novel sets out with a clear and intended purpose — to instill and teach the concept of virtue to young women and admonish them against the guises of clever men who might deceive them out of such values. Rowson made Charlotte the protagonist because her youth and innocence mirror that of the new nation. America was a land of naiveté and inexperience, and many 18th century Americans feared the government’s immaturity could lead to a deception and downfall similar to that of the novel’s protagonist.

The book also explores the notion of human emotion, and furthermore, how it operated within the culture of the new republic. On one hand, sentimentality served as an argumentative tactic. Rowson thought if she could get her readers to feel a certain way, she could inspire concordant actions. A similar rhetorical devise would later be used in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s groundbreaking novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” However, the use of emotion to conjure certain behavior was also a weak spot in the new republic. Women were seen as emotional beings who could be easily swayed by passion and sentiments, whereas men were thought to rely more on reason and rationale.

Though Wieland and Charlotte Temple differ in tone, plot, rhetorical method and intended audience, they share a common message. The fact that concerns about the vulnerability of the new republic manifested themselves in works of literature, as well as other cultural outlets, proves the centrality and gravity such issue had in 18th century America — and these concerns live on. The United States has long grappled with immigration and the entrance of strangers because its citizens are fearful of the threat of the “other.” The Anglo-Saxon movement of the 19th century, tightened immigration laws during the 20th century and a general concern over the loss of “American” identity with the influx of thousands of immigrants each year clearly indicate the concern confronted by the two novels is not unique to the era of the new republic. Instead, vestigial worries about deception remains a constant staple in American society to this day.

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126

Genre of Gothic: Transformation As a Crucial Concept

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Throughout The Bloody Chamber, Carter uses traditional fairytales as a template for discussion on gender and sexual politics. Therefore, although her short stories contain conventional forms of transformation – men turn into wolves in The Company of Wolves, at the end of The Courtship of Mr Lyon Mr Lyon turns back into a man, and in the conclusion of The Tiger’s Bride the protagonist changes into a beast as well – they also include a deeper, metaphorical notion of change. At the time of writing, the Second Wave Feminism movement had reached its peak; this shift in attitudes may have influenced Carter’s frequent use of symbolic imagery to denote a character’s emotional and psychological transformation.

Carter advocates an accommodation between the tiger and lamb binary opposites of human nature as a means of achieving wholeness. The titles of both The Courtship of Mr Lyon (TCoML) and The Tiger’s Bride (TTB) have a clear male emphasis; the fact that the protagonist is described as ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ suggests his ownership of her, an obviously unequal power dynamic. However, by the end of the stories (both of which involve a physical metamorphosis) the relationship between the male and female figures has also changed, conveying Carter’s desire for socially constructed notions of gender to be discarded. The final line of TCoML – ‘Mr and Mrs Lyon walk in the garden…’ – is symbolic of the two opposing forces conforming to meet the needs of each other. This links to the key concepts of the 1970s feminist movement, which put forward ideas concerning gender as a social construct. This notion was presented in Simone de Beauvoir’s, the famous French feminist, book The Second Sex (1949); the author famously wrote, ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’. This reflects both de Beauvoir’s and Carter’s belief that femininity does not arise from differences in biology, but that it is a construct of civilisation; someone’s situation determines their character. People are gradually shaped by their upbringing, and biology does not determine what makes a woman a woman – women learn their roles (or have them forced upon them) by the male dominated society they inhabit. They are not born passive, secondary, and nonessential, just as men are not born dominant, superior, and authoritarian, but external forces have conspired to make them so. Lawrence Phillips, on Carter, wrote, ‘change, [her work] seems to suggest, is an extremely difficult business to come about’. These forces are hard to overcome, and will inevitably take a long time, but this is within reach. Glimpses of this optimistic attitude are apparent throughout the stories of The Bloody Chamber (TBC), but especially in The Company of Wolves (TCoW), the last line of which reads, ‘See! sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf’. This highly symbolic physical accommodation not only resembles the biblical image of the lamb lying down with the lion, but it also reinforces Carter’s claim that ‘I am all for putting new wine in old bottles’, the ‘new wine’ in this case being the wholeness achieved from the merging of two previously conflicting halves, and the ‘old bottle’ being ‘granny’s bed’, which is a symbol of the patriarchy – old, irrelevant, and outdated. Carter’s use of allegorical symbolism as a means of promoting her views of equality and unity goes hand in hand with her aim to transform classic fairytales from a form of literature which inherently reinforces the socially constructed nature of female identity and sexuality, to a feminist political rewriting of the genre.

Carter’s stories deal with the objectification of women in a phallocentric order and the way traditional fairytales reinforce the perception of women as merely objects. For instance, in The Snow Child (TSC), the defining feature of the woman is that she’s the Count’s wife, and her appearance reflects this; ‘wrapped in the glittering pelts of black foxes’ and other glamorous items, her identity is based entirely on materiality. The Count himself also regards women as objects, the repetition of ‘I wish’ is a symbol of the patriarchy shaping and moulding women to fit male desires and expectations. The nature of these expectations is inherently linked to the treatment of women as disposable commodities; the Count’s yearning for ‘a girl as white as snow’, and ‘as red as blood’ brings to mind images of corpses, suggesting that women are more attractive when they are dead, and therefore completely submissive to male figures. Helen Simpson wrote, ‘Menace is located not in the darker side of heterosexuality, in sadomasochism and the idea of fatal passion’. This notion is reinforced when the Count ‘thrust his virile member into the dead girl’; she doesn’t have to be autonomous for the Count to view her as a sexual object, in fact he, a symbol of the patriarchy, prefers her in a state in which she is absolutely passive. The rivalry between the two female figures is also evidence of the materiality by which women are valued – as the Count rebuffs the Countess’ demands, ‘the furs sprang off [her] shoulders and twined round the naked girl’, symbolising the shifting of the Count’s affection. The Countess’ dependence on the Count is made obvious as she is ‘left bare as a bone’, her nakedness a metaphor for her vulnerability and disempowerment in a male dominated society. The treatment of women as mere objects is prevalent throughout the title story of TBC; the Marquis gleefully asserts his dominance over the nameless protagonist as he seeks, like the Count in TSC, to transform her from an autonomous, free-thinking individual into a submissive sexual object. The Marquis strips the heroine of her clothes (again bringing to mind the connotations of disempowerment that accompany nudity) ‘as if he were stripping the leaves off an artichoke’ – Carter’s choice to liken the narrator to a vegetable emphasises the Marquis’ desire for her to enter a vegetative state, passive and unresisting. When the Marquis is about to execute her he remarks, ‘Such a pretty neck, […] A neck like the stem of a young plant’. Rosemary Moore wrote, ‘In the late seventeenth century it was deemed natural that husbands should master their wives. The Marquis is the paradigmatic Western man whose attitudes to sexuality are feudal and who believes that a woman is his slave’. However, it seems as though he aims to reduce the protagonist further than the status of slavery, down to just a piece of meat, regarding her as a ‘lamb chop’. Carter’s unrelenting and visceral handling of objectification demonstrates the aims of the patriarchal society to deprecate and undermine women’s autonomy in order to maintain the unequal power dynamics already in place, and prevent any transgression or transformation.

Carter’s use of settings underline the repressive nature and imbalance of power in patriarchal society. The harsh and unforgiving landscapes that several of the stories take place in reflect the vulnerability of the female characters – in TSC, the first line reads, ‘Midwinter – invincible, immaculate’. The concise sentence evokes an atmosphere of hostility, echoed in the demeanour of the Countess, who is filled with hate and devoid of emotion. This hate is a product of her oppression, but rather than being directed towards her oppressors (the Count among them), it is directed towards her fellow woman, the young girl the Count wishes into existence. This female rivalry prevents the female figures from toppling their oppressors, keeping them subjugated. Similarly, the castle in TBC is an extension of the Marquis’ wealth, domination, and power over the heroine, serving as a symbol of the patriarchy. Described as possessing a ‘faery solitude’ and ‘cut off by the tide from land’, it physically entraps the protagonist, preventing her escape and thus aiding the Marquis’ attempts to prevent her from transgressing and gaining any form of autonomy. To reinforce this notion, Carter likens the castle to a prison, describing the Marquis’ key ring as being ‘as crowded as that of a prison warder’; the idea that she is being held captive emphasises the imbalanced power dynamic between the two. The concept of entrapment appears in The Erl-King (TEK) as well, in which Carter’s description of the ‘autumn wood’ evokes an air of claustrophobia; the unnerving conciseness of ‘the woods enclose’ immediately brings to mind the notion of the woods being alive, and this is further strengthened when Carter writes ‘once you are inside it, you must stay there until it lets you out again’. The protagonist is trapped by the sentient woods, left hunting ’round hopelessly for the way out’ as she wanders through the ‘house of nets’. However, the woods possess yet another symbolic layer, as traditionally in literary histories and discourses concerning women, forests are the setting for the heroine losing her way, navigating and negotiating through the woods, and emerging to achieve a new identity. Indeed, at the end of TEK, the narrator forges her own destiny by killing the Erl-King, replacing male power with female domination. This conclusion is similar to that of TBC, in which the castle, previously a symbol of male dominance and female entrapment, is turned into a ‘school for the blind’, literally and metaphorically opening the eyes of people to the ways of society, while simultaneously suggesting a new way forward.

In conclusion, Carter’s use of imagery, both to attack an inherently unbalanced society, and advocate equality between genders, serves as a call to arms for women, encouraging them not to follow in the footsteps of those before them and continue to be passive, unyielding figures. The author’s stories, while being brutally viscera in their depiction of power dynamics and gender politics is also subtly optimistic. The endings of many of her short stories involve women taking matters into their own hands and defying conventional narrative conclusions, which usually involve men solving the problem. For instance, in her rewriting of Bluebeard, which was originally written by Charles Perrault in 1697, it is the protagonist’s mother who saves her, rather than the two brothers of the original. Perrault’s version was intended to be a cautionary tale, warning women against being too curious (and advising them subliminally to remain submissive and accepting of society’s ways) – rather than simply penning a completely new narrative, Carter’s version of Bluebeard achieves not only in exposing the domination and oppression of women, but also in showing how society can change to accommodate both previously opposing genders.

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197

Gothic Perception of Females in the Bloody Chamber

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The corruption of innocence and the gaining of experience are common aspects of Carter’s stories in ‘The Bloody Chamber’, which are applied to many themes such as sexuality in The Tiger’s Bride and The Bloody Chamber, self-awareness in Wolf-Alice and horror in the collection’s namesake. This loss of innocence aids in the development of the protagonist, since new experiences allow them to reclaim their freedom from the shackles of the patriarchy. This idea links to Carter’s desire to subvert the Gothic conventions of women in literature, who are often given the passive role of the victim, with the intent of transforming them into powerful figures who are in control of their own identities.

Innocence and experience is a key theme in the first story, The Bloody Chamber. From the beginning, it is evident that the heroine is not entirely innocent: ‘‘I’m sure I want to marry him’, I said’. This shows that despite knowing that the Marquis is dangerous, the heroine is intrigued and excited by the danger, which presents a female character who controls her own fate. This decisiveness opposes classic Gothic literature, where many women are forced to do as male characters say, with Carter already beginning to introduce feminist ideas at the beginning of the story. Furthermore, her mother does not stop her daughter from marrying the Marquis; it is unclear whether the mother is initially aware of the dangerous nature of the Marquis, but her decision to remain quiet shows that the heroine is being given the freedom to do as she pleases. Carter also questions the traditional perceptions of corruption: ‘I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away’. Traditionally, women are taught to be afraid of corruption, which is subverted by Carter who creates a female character who is unafraid of the consequences of her desires. If anything, this excites and arouses the heroine, which implies that some women take pleasure in submitting to the desires of men. This reveals the complexity of the female psyche, because the heroine’s independent and decisive nature is juxtaposed with a desire to be corrupted. However, by the end of the story, the heroine’s experience with the Marquis has clearly scarred her: ‘I am glad he cannot see [the red mark] …because it spares my shame’. This is a permanent reminder for the heroine that desire and temptation can terrorize her as much as it can empower her, showing that not all experiences are pleasant. In this context, the heroine is not empowered by her loss of innocence, suggesting that she feels unfulfilled because she did not complete the final act of consummation, which was to be ‘penetrated’ by the Marquis’ sword. Despite her character being considered unusual compared with women in Gothic literature, her desire to sacrifice herself for the Marquis suggests that she is not as independent as she is initially thought to be. It is clear that she will be unable to fulfill this desire in her life with the piano-tuner, which implies that she will feel incomplete due to the lack of excitement in her later life.

The idea of becoming experienced is also explored in The Tiger’s Bride. At the start of the story, the relationship between the heroine and La Bestia is transactional, since her father lost her to him in a card game: ‘You must not think my father valued me at less than a king’s ransom; but at no more than a king’s ransom’. This presents the reader with a heroine who is instantly being objectified at the start of the story, but a heroine who is also incredibly perceptive of the actions of male characters. This shows that the heroine’s innocence is being overestimated by the male characters and changes the reader’s perception of her, since women are typically depicted as being coy and na?ve in Gothic literature. As the heroine spends more time with La Bestia, her intrigue for him grows: ‘I felt my breast ripped apart as if I suffered a marvellous wound’. In the context of the story, this highlights the heroine’s observant nature, since she is suspicious of La Bestia’s unnatural beauty. It is evident that La Bestia is not all that he seems and the oxymoron, ‘marvellous wound’, shows that while the heroine feels betrayed, she is also aroused by his true nature. This also shows that sex and violence are inextricably linked and fetishizes the idea of inflicting pain or being subject to pain, again revealing the complexity of female sexuality and suggesting that sadomasochism is not shameful. At the end of the story, the relationship between the heroine and La Bestia becomes consensual, with the heroine revealing herself to be a tiger: ‘I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur’. This shows that the heroine has gained experience by sexually freeing herself. In the story, sexuality is embodied by the tiger and so the heroine has achieved freedom by embracing her animalistic side; in freeing herself, it causes her to become the ‘Sadeian Woman’ because she is now in control of her own sexuality. The transition from a transactional to a consensual relationship shows that there is now equality between the heroine and La Bestia, because she has been encouraged to embrace her true nature and live, metaphorically and literally, like a tiger.

The loss of innocence is also a major aspect of Wolf-Alice, but for different reasons. Wolf-Alice is described as a feral child who ‘grew up with wild beasts’, which captures her innocence because she does not see the danger in these wild animals that others would be able to. This animalistic nature is all that Wolf-Alice has ever known because she has not yet been introduced to humanity. As a result, she finds comfort in wild animals as opposed to humans, because she has only been able to learn from them and is therefore unaware of what human nature is, despite being a human. Wolf-Alice begins to lose her innocence once she starts menstruating: ‘Her first blood bewildered her’. This shows that her journey to self-awareness is focalized through puberty, because menstruation indicates that she is now becoming more feminine and is now able to be corrupted by male desire. Puberty also teaches Wolf-Alice about the concept of time: ‘The moon vanished; but, little by little, reappeared’. The discovery of time enables Wolf-Alice to become more self-aware, because she now realizes that she has lived in the past and will live in the future, as opposed to just occupying the present. The moon is also symbolic of femininity, again showing how puberty aids in her character development. The lunar cycle also teaches Wolf-Alice to prepare for menstruation instead of being repulsed or confused by it. As a result of this, Wolf-Alice is made more humane by the fact that she is learning more about herself and her surroundings. Mirrors also serve to educate Wolf-Alice and allow her to become more self-aware: ‘She saw with irritation, then amusement, how it mimicked every gesture of hers’. It is clear that Wolf-Alice is still very innocent when she first examines the mirror, because she does not realize that the reflection is of her. Wolf-Alice’s reaction to her reflection is similar to that of wild animals, who are very defensive towards others, but her amusement emphasizes her naivety and shows that she has not yet discovered herself. Mirrors also have connotations of vanity and since Wolf-Alice is not yet aware that the reflection is of her, it can be argued that she is unknowingly objectifying herself. This links to the idea that as she becomes more human, she also becomes more narcissistic, implying that human culture revolves around materialism. The objectification of her reflection creates sexual vanity and suggests that it is humanity’s obsession with beauty that has corrupted Wolf-Alice.

In conclusion, Carter’s stories prove that women do not need to rely on men to sexually liberate themselves and become more self-aware. The implication of the stories in The Bloody Chamber, is that no-one – except Wolf-Alice, who is atypical in her behavior as a human – is completely innocent, showing that women have the potential to free themselves from oppression and take control of their fate, which would not be considered achievable without questioning the conventions of traditional Gothic literature.

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106

Hulk and Point of View in “The Tiger’s Bride”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

What attributes qualify someone, or something, as a monster? Despite the fact that the answer to this subjective query fluctuates immensely among individual persons, for centuries we have attempted to construct a universal definition of the word ‘monster’. The Oxford English Dictionary (1884) illustrates man’s inability to produce such a designation through its inclusion of a variety of descriptions derived from those previously established and changes in cultural and societal standards. One entry, for example, defines a monster as “a mythical creature which is part animal and part human, or combines elements of two or more animal forms, and is frequently of great size and ferocious appearance.” Within this same entry, it continues by adapting this description in an effort to make it more general: “Any imaginary creature that is large, ugly, and frightening.”

In literature, however, we are exposed to figures of all backgrounds, appearances, and temperaments that are presented as monsters, some of which do not embody the more conventional qualities that have come to accompany this distinction. One such case is manifested in fiction author Angela Carter’s “The Tiger’s Bride”, an altered version of Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast”. The characteristics that she chooses to prioritize in shaping her monster, the tiger Milord, extend beyond the physical classifications presented in the preceding definitions and earlier versions of the fairy tale. Carter proceeds to argue that it is an abuse of power that makes a monster, and illustrates this claim through her beast’s treatment of the heroine, Rose, as well as his ability to break her strength and sense of identity. In order to adequately defend this claim and identify the additional attributes of a monster Carter presents in her tale, an analysis of her descriptions, narrative style, and tone will be performed. Furthermore, the relationship between “The Tiger’s Bride” and the theories of Julia Kristeva’s abject will be explored.

It is clear that Carter wanted to incorporate specific physical qualities as a basis for generating a monster within her tale, perhaps using the initial mental images produced by many upon mention of ‘monster’ as a launching point for the proposal of her argument. As the plot unfolds, she consistently supplies audiences with details of Milord’s intimidating form, reminding us that he is of “great size and ferocious appearance” (Oxford English Dictionary). The “annihilating vehemence of his eyes” (Carter, 63), his “excoriating claws” (60), and his “savage geometry” (63) suggest that the extent of intensity and control the tiger is capable of possessing is one to be dreaded.

What accompanies these rich descriptions of Milord’s frightful features is one of the more underlying “stipulations” Carter considers necessary for the label of monster: deceitfulness. The beast takes every measure to disguise his true form. The speaker describes the overpowering scent of perfume radiating from Milord’s lavish purple gown, as well as the male face painted on his mask: “Oh yes, a beautiful face; but one with too much formal symmetry of feature to be entirely human…too perfect, uncanny”(53). Furthermore, Milord utilizes emotional deception to catalyze the deterioration of the heroine’s identity, an argument that will be evaluated more thoroughly later in this analysis. The tiger feigns weakness through tears and perceived shame following the expression of his expectation to see Rose’s unclothed body. By doing so, he provides Rose with a false sense of having control of the situation, ultimately pushing her to see herself as the monster and fall to his demands. Until Rose succumbs to the Milord’s barbaric desire, however, he continues to maintain the physical fa?ade used to convince others of his humanity within his private quarters, as if attempting to overcome personal denial that he is an animal: “In his rarely disturbed privacy, the Beast wears…a dull purple gown with gold embroidery round the neck that falls from his shoulders to conceal his feet” (57).

By including these more familiar attributes of a monster in her tale, Carter essentially “warms up” her audience and prepares us to receive her proposed criterion. She offers this insight to her opinions primarily through the narrative style of “The Tiger’s Bride”. Establishing Rose as the speaker aids Carter in demonstrating that to her, the extent of a monster’s existence is dependent upon its effects on and reactions from an individual, as well as its behavior. Rose’s defiant, disturbed tone constructed as a result of her interaction with Milord clearly articulates the author’s ideas of a monster, carrying it beyond the text and ensuring a connection with readers.

Consider the initial setting, mood, and events of the tale. As a chancy game of cards comes to close, Rose feels her freedom ripped away as she becomes one of the last items to be gambled. Carter uses this opening scene to present oppressiveness as a quality of a monster. She introduces Milord as a daunting figure that abuses his tyrannical stature: “Everyone who comes to this city must play a hand with the grand seigneur; few come” (51)—Milord willingly takes one’s precious belongings as a means of payment for residence in his town. As the candles dwindle down and her father’s perspiration increases, Rose is guided into developing feelings of repugnance and impertinence for Milord as his yellow eyes routinely break from his hand to watch her as if she were his prize—or his prey. The evocation of these emotions was certainly intended—there are strong feminist undertones in this piece, as will be described in the following paragraph. However, Carter strategized for Milord to illicit these same sentiments within her audience as well: There is a sense of outrage as we witness the tiger’s assessment of Rose as a mere possession to add to his collection: “…If you are so careless of your treasures, you should expect them to be taken from you” (54). His failure to acknowledge Carter’s heroine as an individual with emotions and dignity immediately cultures disapproving attitudes that prevent us from associating Milord with any human-like qualities.

When exploring Carter’s proposal of misuse of power as an attribute of Milord, it is possible to contend that misogynistic qualities are also included within her criterion for a monster. The tiger’s animalistic request to see the body of a virgin works to stir up an array of emotions. Rose, initially, was struck by the ridiculousness and almost predictableness of his desire, later commenting how men had never taken her seriously because of her gender. For me, I reacted to his request with revulsion—to be seen merely as an object with all value stripped away is heartbreaking. Milord’s lusting, almost obsessive desire to deflower a woman with his eyes is successful in evoking the type of reaction Carter insists can be also produced as an effect of a monster—one that is much different from fear.

Although these particular instances illustrate some of Rose’s emotional and physical responses that were not rooted in terror, others that do address the ability of a monster to produce such a reaction are included in the tale. When Milord sends his valet to collect his winnings, Rose describes the carriage being “as black as a hearse” (54). This comment provides significant insight regarding Rose’s composure as the time comes for her to be taken to Milord. A sense of dread, an awareness of an impending doom, is embodied in this description, and we begin to get an idea of how intimidating Milord is to a woman of such confidence. As the valet leads Rose to the tiger’s dark, stifling chamber, the heroine’s reflection offers a similar connotation: “I held my head high and followed him; but, for all my pride, my heart was heavy” (57).

Julia Kristeva’s “Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection” can be used to understand the main and final attribute of Milord that classifies him as a monster within this text: his ruthless attempts to erode Rose’s resilience and self-worth, and his eventual success in doing so. In her essay, Kristeva considers Sigmund Freud’s theories of the uncanny and writes to redefine the word ‘abject’ by describing it as a sort of “limbo”—the middle ground between something that is a part of someone as an individual, and something that is embodied within a separate entity. The abject pushes someone to react with uncertainty and uneasiness by essentially relating the individual to something they do not wish to have a connection with, either because it instills fear within them, or because they have developed a set of negative feelings towards it.

Carter works to produce the abject through Milord’s manipulative behavior, and it becomes more evident once his victim Rose’s tone, thoughts, and actions are considered. Initially, the heroine is admirably self-respecting and firm, refusing to allow her captor the satisfaction of having complete dominance over her. Upon entering the tiger’s chamber for the first time, Rose conveys that she will not easily be made submissive: “I remained standing. During this interview, my eyes were level with those inside the mask…” (57). It is while the tiger’s yellow eyes bore into Rose’s, however, that connections between herself and the monster first began to make themselves known. Being separated from mankind and thrown into a world of beasts forces the heroine to become more aware of her animalistic qualities, disassembling every trace of humanity.

The more time Rose spends at the palace, the more obvious it becomes that she is losing her sense of identity. She acknowledges the apparent power struggle between herself and Milord, and neither are willing to stand down. On the winter day that she, Milord, and the valet go riding, we see Rose come to a climactic realization: “A profound sense of strangeness slowly began to possess me…then the six of us—mount and riders, both—could boast amongst us not one soul, either, since all the best religions in the world state categorically that not beasts or women were equipped with [them]…” (62). At this moment, Rose inadvertently recognizes that a part of Milord is referenced within herself, and vice versa. In their society, neither of them are considered to have an opinion, a soul—any remote sense of worth. It is here that the abject is officially established, and it is here that the heroine loses herself to Carter’s monster. Shortly before revealing her breasts to the tiger, Rose grants insight into the newfound fear instilled in her by Milord: “My composure deserted me; all at once I was on the brink of panic” (62). The tiger exploits this abjection and strips his prize of more than her clothing. He maintained a sort of patience, waiting for Rose to recognize her inner beastliness and disassemble herself one piece at a time. Ultimately, his actions push her to deterioration, and Rose wilts in the tiger’s chamber as Milord’s rough, licking tongue “ripped off skin after successive skin” (66).

I have analyzed Carter’s argument and identified the attributes she considers to be essential for the existence of a monster through her use of Milord: deceitfulness, abusive with power, capable of generating the abject, and willingness to inflict harm on another to satisfy selfish desires. After doing so, it becomes possible to refute the notion that the creature described previously in the Oxford English Dictionary is a monster based on solely the definition.

This exploration can now be applied to Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast” to examine an additional case in which the definition of a monster presented in the introduction lacks relevance and accuracy as a result of the evolution of time. Beaumont’s tale, published in 1756, addresses a popular notion of the era that a hideous physical appearance is a domineering characteristic of a monster. The narrator and characters even refer to the Beast (initially) with this distinction: “…and the monster having asked her if she came willingly; ‘ye—e—es,’ said she, trembling”. Clearly, Beaumont’s Beauty is afraid; however, this reaction does not stem from Beast’s behavior or attitude toward her—it is rooted it his appearance alone. In “The Tiger’s Bride”, published over 200 years later, Carter argues that a monster’s existence is more reliant upon the creature’s conduct. When taking the attributes proposed by Carter under consideration, then, it becomes clear that Beaumont’s ‘monster’ actually proves to be the exact opposite. Take for example the manner in which Beast treats his female counterpart. He sacrifices his happiness and well-being for that of the woman he loves and treats with value, which nearly results in his death. This selflessness evokes a set of reactions from Beauty that greatly contrasts with that of Carter’s heroine. Beast’s temperament, behavior, actions, and words suggest more human-like qualities than animal, and these features eventually result in Beauty developing a love for him. As audiences culture feelings of favor towards Beast and even a sense of relatability, they discover that “any imaginary creature that is large, ugly, and frightening” no longer accurately defines what constitutes a monster.

Works Cited

Carter, Angela. “The Tiger’s Bride.” The Classic Fairy Tales: Text Criticisms. Ed. Maria Tartar. New York: Norton & Company, 1999. 50-66. Print.

De Beaumont, Jeanne-Marie LePrince. “Beauty and the Beast”. 1756. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982. Print.

Leitch, Vincent B., et al. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W. W. Norton &Company, Inc., 2001. Print.

Oxford English Dictionary. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 1989. Print.

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106

The Representation of Gothic Tropes, Comparison of the Novel and Film

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

This chapter from the novel ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker includes an abundance of conventions typical of the Gothic genre, primarily employed here through Stoker’s characterisation of Johnathan Harker, Count Dracula and the three seductive women. Published in the late 19th Century, at a time when the focus of the Gothic genre was often on the darker elements of the human psyche in the familiar setting of the modern world, ‘Dracula’, for the most part being set in Victorian Britain, indeed conformed to the genre norms of the time. However, this chapter contains a number of conventions established early on in the genre; a protagonist suffering an excess of emotional distress, caused by supernatural phenomena, the events taking place in in unfamiliar locations, distanced from the present. Indeed, such elements ensure the foundations of this novel are deep-rooted in the Gothic style.

The overtly sexual tone of this chapter establishes this a theme of the novel, indeed one which is common in the Gothic genre. Stoker depicts one of the recurring Gothic stereotypes of female characters in his portrayal of the three women introduced in this chapter; they are attractive, illusive and sexually assertive. Johnathan recounts how the “fair girl went on her knees, and bent over [him], fairly gloating”, the proxemics here creating the sexual tone and reinforcing a notion typical of the Gothic genre: that women are only able to exert power through their sexuality. Sexuality is a prevalent Gothic theme; indeed, it can be seen famously in Angela Carter’s anthology ‘The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories’ where numerous female characters display prevalent sexual desires. However, female sexual assertiveness was not generally accepted in the Victorian era and so contemporary readers would have been suitably shocked and even disturbed by this moment in the narrative, indeed fulfilling one of the aims of the genre. In the 1992 film adaptation of Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, director Francis Ford Coppula exaggerates the sexual atmosphere further by choosing to have the three women topless and to have all engage with Johnathan, kissing and licking him repeatedly. A century after the original novel societal opinion on sex would have changed, and by making this seen even more outrageous, Coppula is successful in upholding the Gothic motive of shocking his audience. Yet another Gothic trope which is portrayed during this moment is the notion that humans are simultaneously repulsed and enticed by the supernatural. Stoker provides the reader with more than one example of juxtaposition that demonstrate Johnathan’s confusion as to how to react to his strange predicament: “some longing and at the same time deadly fear”, “which was both thrilling and repulsive”. This strong juxtaposition is also seen in Stoker’s description of the women’s physical appearances, indeed they are “ladies by their dress”, mimicking the appearance of a Victorian lady, contrasting the disconcerting emphasis placed by Stoker on their “brilliant white teeth”. The overwhelming sense of Johnathan’s confusion here, as well as his guilt in knowing that “it is not good to note this down, lest someday it should meet Mina’s eyes”, demonstrates that the sexual element of the chapter is perhaps transgressive but presented in such a way that it is attractive to both contemporary and modern readers, indeed conforming to the Gothic tradition of exploring inexplicable fascination.

Another character that is inherently Gothic is Count Dracula. At this point in the novel, the supernatural elements to his character has already been hinted to the reader, and here they are only emphasised. Stoker depicts how “the red light in [his eyes] was lurid, as if the flames of hell-fire blazed behind them”. Colour semiotics are so often used to depict characters in Gothic fiction, and here it is no different. The allusion to hell, along with the connotations of the colour red not only associate Count Dracula with evil, but also with the myths surrounding vampirism – red eyes being an indicator of such. This foreshadows a potentiality for cruelty in the Count and establishes him as the novel’s Gothic antagonist. Furthermore, the Count is exerts tremendous power both physically and in the way of gender dynamics, reinforcing his Gothic characterisation. Johnathan recounts how Count Dracula “hurled the women from him”, the powerful verb “hurled” eliciting extremely aggressive connotations. His actions here re-affirm male dominance in this moment as Stoker introduces the concept that gender hierarchy, a recurring Gothic theme, exists in both the human and supernatural realms; men will always dominate. Indeed in the 1992 film adaptation by Francis Ford Coppula, these power dynamics are demonstrated starkly through the camera angle at this point in the story, which looks up at the Count from below mimicking the way in which women might look up to a man. The Count’s aggrieve actions ensure that this is yet another moment in the narrative that is successful in shocking the contemporary reader as the Victorian façade of respectability is subverted.

Additionally, the apparent emotional distress and disorientation of the protagonist Johnathan Harker contributes considerably to the Gothic atmosphere of the novel. Johnathan describes how “the lips…seemed about to fasten on [his] throat”, the use of the verb “fasten” being successful in manifesting tangible tension in this moment as is connotes a sense of claustrophobia and impending danger. Indeed, Johnathan’s lack of reaction might baffle the reader, since it is human instinct to avoid danger; his passive and docile manner in this moment only emphasises the power dynamics between Johnathan and the woman, indeed Gothic in style as Stoker demonstrates the helplessness of the human – the relatable character – in the face of the creature that is both foreign but also alarmingly familiar to the reader, as she is to Johnathan. Stoker is also successful in creating a potent sense of disorientation at this point in the narrative when the Count states “I must awaken him”, the fairly obvious implication being that Johnathan was asleep. This is portrayed starkly in the 1992 film adaptation by Francis Ford Coppula in which the echoing whispers of the three women, who are not yet present, combined with the mist that initially covers the bed creates a fantastical, dreamlike sequence which reinforces the possibility that Johnathan is indeed unconscious, calling into question whether or not this occurrence was merely Johnathan’s imagination. Whilst the reader remains uncertain as to whether or not Johnathan was unconscious, it was Stoker’s intention, in true Gothic form, to create an unreliable narrator which subsequently unnerves the reader. ‘The Turn of the Screw’ by Henry James is one of the most famous examples of the Gothic trope of the unreliable narrator; the story ends in a shocking and confusing manner, leaving the reader totally unsure of what took place. Indeed this moment is similar in that the reader is left uncertain as to whether or not the actions actually took place or whether it was part of a dream – a manifestation of Johnathan’s fear. Here, Stoker fulfils one of the most important Gothic aims; to stimulate a psychological response of fear in the reader. Indeed, the essence of the Gothic is to threaten stability and lose control of what is traditionally believed by the reader to be normal and true. The end of the chapter heightens the reader’s fear as it describes how “the horror overcame me, and I sank down unconscious”. The contrast in sentence structure and the emphasis on the loss on consciousness is extremely powerful in that it mirrors the theatrical climax of a blackout, indeed making the end of this chapter suitably sudden and dramatic. Stoker’s makes effect use of narrative techniques throughout the chapter; the epistolary style and here in particular, first person narrative, yet another frequent Gothic trope, ensures that the “horror” of the situation resonates strongly with the reader and the Gothic style of the narrative is magnified.

In conclusion, Stoker’s employment of traditional Gothic tropes, combined with the reader’s prior knowledge of the remote and isolated location where the narrative unfolds, vigorously conforms to the style of early Gothic literature; indeed Horace Walpole’s ‘The Castle of Otranto’ is considered to be the first Gothic and it’s remote setting paves the way for effectiveness of such convention. By combining this element with others familiar to a reader of the Gothic – elements of the supernatural, an unreliable narrator and an overtly sexually tone – Stoker is successful in telling a story which is well established in Gothic form.

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Analysis of Gothic Literature on the Examples of Stoker and Carter

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Gothic is undeniably intertwined with transformative states, both literally, such as with the presentation of supernatural beings that lie between life and death, and also thematically, with the idea of transitional time periods and settings. One of the great contradictions of Gothic literature is how, while transformations are integral to the genre, there remains a divide between novels that use this to portray a transgressive message, and others that promote conformist morals. This contradiction becomes even more apparent when comparing Angela Carter’s 20th century The Bloody Chamber with Bram Stoker’s 19th Century work Dracula, as while both present transformations, the former uses this as a positive force whereas the latter can be viewed as cautionary and moralistic.

Both Carter and Stoker combine the gothic trope of the ‘abhuman’ with the idea of transformation to convey wildly different ideas on sexuality and gender. Dracula is perhaps most famous for its eponymous vampire, who acts as the main antagonist of the novel. The vampire itself can be seen as a being that is inherently transformative, anthropomorphic on the whole but with uncanny corpse-like differences such as “sharp, protruding teeth” and “pallid” complexions. Yet what makes the Victorian vampire so distinct – in opposition to the original folklore – is its sensuality and “voluptuousness”, shown also through the vampire women and mid-way through the novel with the vampirisation of protagonist Lucy. Lucy’s literal transformation from an innocent into a “bloodstained, voluptuous” creature with a complexion that resembles “Medusa’s snakes”, epitomises the role of the vampire in Stoker’s novel. Earlier gothic novels often focused on individual vampires, such as Polidori’s the ‘Vampyre’, and most significantly the lesbian vampire of Carmilla, from which Stoker borrowed heavily. However, what makes Stoker’s vampires distinct is not the threat of a Dracula alone, but the threat of mass transformation – an anxiety that is undeniably intertwined with female sexuality. Even before her transformation Lucy showed signs of breaking Victorian sexual taboos, expressing a desire for polygamy when she proclaims “why can’t a girl marry three men”. Thus her transformation and extermination by her fiance who drives a phallic stake “deeper and deeper” into her can be read as a policing of female sexual expression, and some modern critics have even interpreted the sequence as a euphemized form of corrective rape.

In contrast, the transformation of Carter’s protagonist in The Tiger’s Bride can be read as an absolute rejection of traditional sexual morals. The protagonist of the story learns that to defy the patriarchal system – expressed through her father who “lost me (her) to the beast at cards” – “the lamb must learn to run with the tigers”. Carter uses the tiger and lion as representations of men and women, and in the climax of the novel this biblical imagery becomes literal. In an almost magical realist manner the narrators skin is licked off by the beast, revealing a “nascent patina of shining hairs”. It is possible to view this as a Sadian approach to morality, with Carter appropriating the traditional Beauty and the Beast story to one where beauty becomes beast and escapes her sacrificial role as lamb or – as Carter calls it – “existing in the passive sense”. From a sex-positive feminist perspective, Carter, unlike Stoker, uses the gothic trope of transformation from human to abhuman to embrace female sexuality as a method of overcoming a system of oppression. In her novel The Sadian Woman she claims “it is eat or be eaten”, and the transformation of the Tiger’s bride is perhaps best read as a fictionalized version of this view. In the context of the 1970s this approach was radical, as even feminist opinion was divided upon Carter’s arguably sympathetic take on the original sadist Marquis de Sade. Therefore, unlike in Dracula, transformation is intentionally transgressive.

Another way both authors convey a sense of transformation through structure and perspective. Stoker uses the form of an epistolary novel to tell his story, constantly shifting perspectives to provide the reader with subjective accounts of the events. This technique is also used in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to similar effect, inducing a sense of verisimilitude, a common technique in gothic literature to give the story a sense of realism. Carter also uses structure to evoke transformation. Her stories can be seen as the literary equivalent of a “Chinese box”, as while they appear self-contained, some critics such as Sarah Gamble argue that taken together her narrators and protagonists become indistinguishable from one another. Therefore, it is no surprise that The Erl King, which acts as the midpoint, has a structure which reflects its transitional place in the collection; the tense goes from “the woods enclose” to “Erl King will do you grievous harm in the space” to “I walked through the wood” in a space of a few paragraphs. Through constantly shifting perspective and tense, Carter evokes a sense of transformation not only in her story but in the language itself. This is further supported by the oxymorons that pervade the piece, such as “grow enormously small”, that reflect the narrator’s contradictory feelings of repulsion and attraction to the Erl King.

It is impossible to ignore setting when addressing Gothic transformations in Stoker and Carter’s work. Dracula begins in pre industrialised Transylvania, in a “cornucopia” where “all superstitions in the world combine”. Stoker’s description of Transylvania distinguishes it as a world apart from the modernity of Victorian London, the former remaining a feudal system and the latter now dominated by the bourgeois middle classes. The clashing of the two settings and time periods is a typical feature of the gothic, and the genre has been read by critics as an expression of the anxieties of the demolition of the established order through social change. Indeed, the word “gothic” itself is derived from the original Goths who contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. Dracula represents the fin-de-sicle strain of this anxiety, with the turn of century fears of declining morals feeding into much literature. For example Wilde’s – a friend of Stoker – The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the decadence movement that surrounded it. Moreover, some postcolonial critics have linked the fear of the “vampirisation” of London not only in a sexual light, but also as a representation of the collective unconscious: an invasion paranoia caused by Britain’s declining empire and world presence. Either way transformation is presented in a negative light.

In contrast, transformation of the established order is presented positively in Carter’s work The Lady of the House of Love. The setting of this story is also that of a gothic world which is externalized in the castle setting, and internalized in the female vampire who herself is “a cave full of echoes… a system of repetitions… a closed circuit.” Choosing to set her novel on the brink of the First World War, Carter possesses the benefit of 20th century hindsight that Stoker did not have. In the story, the lady of the house represents the last vestige of a patriarchal and mystical system that is on the brink of collapse. Carter’s final breaking of the repetitious lifestyle of the lady of the house caused by the “rational” solider, can be read as supporting social transformation as opposed to Stoker’s fin-de-sicle anxieties towards it.

It is clear that transformation pervades the Gothic, as evidenced in The Bloody Chamber and Dracula, narratives in which transformation is evidenced both literally in the characters and settings and implicitly in the structure and subtext. However, what truly distinguishes the novels is how the authors chose to represent this transformation. While Stoker uses the concept to appeal to the contemporary fears of the Victorian reader, using literal transformation to reflect cultural changes such as the changing status of women and the decline of British imperialism, Carter uses it for an opposing motive. The Bloody Chamber can almost be read as a manifesto of sorts, which uses Gothic tropes to highlight the need and importance of transformations within society – particularly towards a feminist goal of female empowerment as opposed to repression. Thus, despite writing almost a century apart, Carter and Stoker represent one of the greatest paradoxes of Gothic literature, highlighting how on the one hand it can be deeply moralistic and on the other completely transgressive.

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