Within Gothic writing the role of women is traditionally seen as that of the victim, be it of masculine cruelty or supernatural forces. It can be argued that this is the view that is shown within Christopher Marlowe’s play ‘Doctor Faustus’ due to women being portrayed as objects of masculine desire, and therefore become subservient to them. Although, this traditional presentation of women is not fixed, and can be seen to be changing over time. The portrayal of women within Angela Carter’s collection of short stories ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is clearly that of empowerment, where female characters overcome supernatural creatures and beast. Similarly, Emily Bronte’s novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ can be seen elevating the role of women, to the extent that they appear to become gothic villains rather than victims. Although, it may be argued that this differing presentation may result from the fact that the latter texts were written by female authors.
In Christopher Marlowe’s play, ‘Doctor Faustus’ there is a limited presentation of women due to the small number of female characters, yet the ones which are portrayed are shown as being objects of male desire rather than individuals in themselves. The most significant presentation of women is that of the apparition of Helen of Troy, whose beauty is clearly shown due to her face being that which ‘launched a thousand ships’. Contextually, Helen of Troy was seen to be a strong character, but in the play, Marlowe degrades her to be seen as an object of lust and desire. Both of these can be seen as sins in themselves, yet when Faustus begging Helen to ‘make me immortal with a kiss’ can be seen as Faustus rejecting any final possibility of redemption by succumbing his to desire for physical pleasure. Ironically, it may be seen that this kiss does make Faustus immortal, since it condemns him to eternal damnation in hell. Although, this apparition is not Helen of Troy herself but demon manifested in her countenance. Therefore, it may be argued that this portrays a female character being possessed and control by supernatural forces, thus fulfilling the conventions of gothic literature due to Helen appearing the victim to the desires of both Faustus and the devil. Furthermore, within Elizabethan theatre it was extremely uncommon for women to perform on stage, therefore, during the original performance it was most likely to have been a man who played the role of Helen. This may be seen is even more ironic since a male actor is playing the role of a women who is possessed by a masculine demon in disguise. This can be seen as further presenting women was being victims within ‘Doctor Faustus’ since they appear to have no individual freedom or even to possess themselves.
However, within Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ women are empowered to the extent that they become heroines rather than victims within the gothic narrative. This portrayal of women can be clearly seen within the tale of ‘The Company of Wolves’. In the tale the supernatural werewolf is seen to be as being a ‘carnivore incarnate’ and is symbolic of masculine predatory sexuality. The female protagonist of the tale, an inversion of the character of Little Red Riding Hood, laughs full in the face of this apparent gothic monster, since she knows she is ‘nobody’s meat’. Carter can be seen as empowering the girl, therefore inverting gothic conventions and presenting the female as being in control and the beast almost being the victim. Indeed, only after this can the anthropomorphic embodiment of male sexuality become ‘tender’ and ‘all be silent’, thus almost mirroring the fairy tale ending on which the tale is based. This may be as Carter suggesting that sexual tensions can only be resolved once women take control of their own sexuality. Therefore, clearly Carter portrays women as being dominate in the tale of ‘The Company of Wolves’, rather than being traditional gothic victims.
Similarly, in Carter’s other inversion of the Perrault tale of Little Red Riding Hood, ‘The Werewolf’, she suggests that women need to overcome, not only patriarchal figures, but also older generations of women who have been distorted and transformed by masculine influence. Its structure is similar to that of ‘The Company of Wolves’, since the girl must overpower a supernatural creature to be able to ‘prosper’ at the end. Although, they differ in that in this tale it is the protagonist’s own grandmother that she must defeat, who has been metamorphosed into a werewolf by masculine influence. Only after this symbol of the patriarchal expectations of women is killed, can the girl again reach a traditional fairy tale happy ending. This can be seen as reflecting Carter’s intention for the collection, which was to remake gothic and fairy tale conventions with a feminist perspective to highlight their underlying misogynistic nature. This may be seen as explaining why women are not portrayed as being gothic victims within the collection but rather as strong, empowered figures.
Furthermore, within Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, women are shown to be almost dominate figures rather than victims. The character who most embodies this portrayal is Catherine Earnshaw, who is described as being ‘a wild, wicked slip’, appearing ungovernable and uncontrollable, thus not fulfilling the role of victim within the narrative. Indeed, Bronte appears to further empower her through the use of her own illness as a weapon, to the affect that she’ll ‘break both their hearts by breaking my own’, both here referring to Edgar and Heathcliff. This gives her an apparent power over the clearly masculine characters who appear to embody both Victorian culture and the power of nature. Therefore, it may be seen that she is able to manipulate both binary opposite, thus appearing as if the masculine figures are the victims of her control. Although, it may be seen that she is the victim of her own ambition due to it being her attempt to unify both culture and nature this is her evitable downfall. Therefore, it may appear as though she fulfils the conventions of a Gothic villain rather than victim due to her Faustian ambition leading to her own death. Although, it may be seen that the framing of the narrative itself results in a form of disempowerment of women. This is due to the majority of the narrative being told by Nelly’s internal female voice, yet this is seemingly legitimised by Lockwood’s external masculine one. By framing the narrative in this manner it presents women as being secondary to men, and therefore the victims to their control. However, this may be seen as Bronte criticising the nature of publishing and literature during the Victorian era since women were unable to publish in their own right and had to use male pseudonym instead, something that Bronte herself had to do with the penname Ellis Bell for ‘Wuthering Heights’.
Clearly, it may be seen that within gothic writing there cases of women being presented as being victims, however, this is not true of all texts. Within in some gothic writing women are presented as being equally or in fact strong than men thus reducing their position as victims within the genre. However, it may be seen that, as is the case with ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’, women are presented in this way due to the texts being written by female authors thus influence the way in which they may have intended to portray women. Indeed, ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is a relatively modern gothic text and therefore, the differing presentation of women may stem from a changing of the positon of women within modern society.
Within Gothic writing it may be seen that there is a strong connection between authors’ use of setting and characterisation. It may be argued that the relationship between this pair is the source of the Gothic elements within the narrative. This can be seen within Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ in which setting is used to build characterisation thus allowing the sublime nature of the setting to be symbolic of characters. Similarly, Carter uses conventional gothic settings within her collection of short stories, ‘The Bloody Chamber’, to characterise the supernatural creatures within the narrative. Indeed, Cater also uses setting to form a sense of unreality to the tales, thus increasing believability of these creatures by setting the narrative apart in both time and space from the readers own perspective. Although, it may be argued that the gothic nature of Christopher Marlowe’s play ‘Doctor Faustus’ due to the structure of the play being that of an exploration of the protagonist’s character and it’s setting being relatively limited.
Within ‘Wuthering Heights’ it may be seen that Bronte clearly characterises individuals according to the setting in which the inhabitant. The Earnshaw family, most significantly Catherine and Heathcliff, are depicted as being excessively passionate and ‘wild’, to the extent that they appear almost as ‘devils’ who’s ‘chief amusement was to run away on to the moors all day’. This naturalistic and almost supernatural presentation can be seen as being mirrored by their home, Wuthering Heights. From Lockwood’s first visit to the Heights, Bronte creates the image of the house being embedded within nature, to such an extent that it almost appears hellish. This is due to her descriptions of thee ‘atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed to’ and by Heathcliff’s ‘almost diabolical smile’. Thus, Bronte’s presentation of Wuthering Heights can be seen as being symbolically mirrored within its inhabitants. In contrast, the inhabitants of Thrushcross Grange, the Linton’s, appear isolated from their natural surrounds and can be seen as being symbolic of the societal expectations of the Victorian era. The house is presented as being ‘a splendid place, carpeted with crimson’ which is separated from the Yorkshire moors in which it is set by a large garden. This then can be seen as being symbolic of the house distance from nature, which is reflected within the Linton family who appear ‘naïve’ and ‘timid’. Therefore, it may be seen that Bronte uses of pathetic fallacies to form characterisation within the narrative, which it may be seen gives rise to the gothic nature of the novel. This is due to the unions between this two binary opposite family’s potentially being seen as a transgression against the expectations of society due to the incompatibility of the Earnshaw family to assimilate into the cultural hegemony of the Grange. This may be seen as Bronte questioning the patriarchal nature of society during the Victorian era.
Furthermore, it may be seen that Bronte’s use of character names may be seen as forming a gothic setting to the novel. Within the narrative, names of characters are repeated and reused, none more so than that of Catherine who shares the name with her daughter. In fact, during Lockwood’s second visit to the Heights, Catherine is presented as having three names: ‘Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff, and Catherine Linton’. Not only can this be seen as an encoded version of the structure of the novel, but also it may be seen as emphasising the isolated nature of the setting of the novel. By Bronte using a limited number of names she creates a sense of detachment from society, which is emphasised when Lockwood notes how both houses are ‘completely removed from the stir of society’. Therefore, this may be seen as fulfilling a typically gothic setting due to its distance from society, a common narrative technique within gothic writing. Indeed, it may be seen that this setting would have matched that of Bronte’s own up bring in a rural area on the Yorkshire moors.
Similarly, Angela Carter also uses an association between characters and setting to form gothic elements within her collection of short stories ‘The Bloody Chamber’. Within the tale of ‘The Werewolf’, Cater also uses a pathetic fallacy to portray the harsh nature of the characters within the narrative. The people of the ‘north country’ live in ‘cold weather’ and as a result have ‘cold hearts’, yet also appear to be extremely superstitious due to the fact that, to them, ‘the devil is as real as you or I’. Not only does this portray the callous nature of the characters but also distances the narrative from reality due the apparent normality of the supernatural within the setting. Therefore, it can be seen that Carter uses an association between character and setting to form supernatural elements within her tales.
Indeed, in the tale of ‘The Lady of House of Love’ Carter’s presentation of the a traditional gothic setting appears to match that of the supernatural vampire. Carter’s portrayal of the Countess’s chateau appears to fulfil that of a conventional gothic labyrinth due to it’s ‘worm-eaten beams, cobwebs…winding staircases…endless corridors’. Indeed, this imagery is mirrored by the Countess herself who is described as being a ‘haunted house’. Therefore, Carter’s use of characterisation and setting can be see as forming the narrative of the tale to fulfil the ‘gothic eternity of the vampires’. However, it may be seen that Carter inverts the gothic elements of the tale due to the Countess’s ‘horrible reluctance of the role’ of gothic villain. This presentation may be seen as a example of Carter’s feminist intentions for the collection due to the way in which it criticises how the female protagonists is entrapped within the confinements of the her masculine ‘ancestral crimes’. This may be seen as Carter commenting upon the way in which paternal figures control and dictate the lives of women, and by doing so limiting their freedoms. Although, this may in fact be seen as embodying the conventional portrayal of women within gothic literature due to the Countess being portrayed as the victim of masculine cruelty.
On the other hand, it may be seen that within Christophe Marlowe’s play ‘Doctor Faustus’, the interaction between character and setting is not used to form the gothic elements of the play. Within the play there is a minimal variance in setting, the majority of which takes place in Faustus study. Although, Marlowe does often move the narrative to the palaces of Dukes and Emperors, even to the Vatican, yet it may be seen that is do for the purpose of the creating the sense of a large world, filled with characters, rather than to highlight gothic elements within the narrative. Indeed, it may be that the play itself is a constant exploration of the morality of Faustus decision to sell his soul ‘for four-and-twenty years of vain pleasure’. Therefore, it may be seen that the play is set within Faustus mind due to the fact that even the bathos scenes of the play appear to be intend to provide a different perspective upon the central question of the play. Indeed, Faustus’s attempt ‘to gain a deity’ can be seen as a gothic transgression against god so it may be seen that the gothic elements of the play arises from Marlowe’s use of structure and development of character, rather than that of the interaction between character and setting. Although, the contextual setting of the play being in the German town of Wittenberg can be seen adding to the gothic nature of the play. This is due to the the religious writer Martin Luther having been the Doctor of Theology at the university of Wittenberg thus almost mirroring Faustus who was ‘graced with doctors name’ at the university himself. Martin Luther was famous for his influence on the Protestant reformation and his questioning of traditional religious practices. Therefore, it may be seen Marlowe’s use of contextual setting for the play emphases it’s sense of gothic transgression due to the associations between Wittenberg and religion questioning.
Overall, it may be seen that elements of he gothic are formed from authors’ use of the interaction between character and setting. However, it may be argued that this is not the only factor that leads to the creation of the gothic but it is also derived by the exploration of characters and the presence of the supernatural within the narrative.
Notably with ‘Doctor Faustus’ Marlowe forms a sense of ambiguity over the role of the protagonist within the play. It may be seen that Faustus fulfils the archetype of gothic villain due to his ruthless ambition and satanic connections. Although, it may in fact be argued that he is a gothic victim rather than a villain due to the sense of sympathy that Marlowe creates towards Faustus. He appears to strive for a noble goal but is lead astray by supernatural force. However, Marlowe’s use of a chorus within the narrative appears to promote the view of Faustus being a villain due to it passing a clear moral judgement over the play.
Within the play Faustus can be seen to be characterised as being a clear gothic villain due to Marlowe’s presentation of his transgressive actions and supernatural allegiances. The central plot of the narrative focuses around Faustus’s contract, in which he sells his soul to the devil in exchange ‘for four-and-twenty years of vain pleasure’. By doing so Marlowe suggest that Faustus’s ‘waxen wings did mount above his reach’ and as a result ‘melting heavens did conspire his overthrow’. This reference to the Greek myth of Icarus relates Faustus’s actions to that of transgressing beyond the limitations of humanity. The extent to which is emphasises through Marlowe’s use of alliteration and iambic pentameter which creates an almost hyperbolic effect toward the grandeur of Faustus actions. Indeed, the fact that it is ‘melting heavens’, which can be seen as symbolic of the power of god that condemns Faustus to punishment and damnation since this suggests that his actions are directly against god. Therefore, Faustus can be seen as fulfilling the role of gothic villain in the reaching for forbidden knowledge is a characteristic among these villains, as is the case within Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’. Furthermore, this gothic transgression against god may have been seen as a far greater sin to the audience of the time than it does to a contemporary audience due to the deeply held religious beliefs of the time. Thus, meaning that to the audience of the time of the play’s creation Faustus will have clearly been seen as a blasphemous villain.
Indeed, Faustus’s role as a gothic villain is reinforced by the horrific actions that he claims he will commit. As a sacrifice to Lucifer, his newly gained master, he claims he will ‘offer up the lukewarm blood of new born babes’. This excessively horrific image can be seen as characterising Faustus as being a ruthless and cruel villain, thus meeting the criteria of the gothic genre. Although, it may be argued that Faustus never truly commits these actions but only claims to do so. In fact, at the beginning of the play Faustus appears to be an almost humanitarian figure due to his medical research which has help ‘whole cities escape the plague’. This appears to suggest that Faustus is in fact noble at heart thus reducing his role as a gothic villain within the ply. Although, it may be seen that Marlowe intend this portray to highlight the tragic nature of the plays structure, since it emphasises the extent to which Faustus falls by the plays climax.
Although, it may be argued that Faustus is in fact a gothic victim in the play due to his apparent manipulation by supernatural forces. Throughout the play Faustus’s demon servant, Mephastophilis, puts on shows and parades of supernatural pleasures which are intended to ‘delight [Faustus’s] mind’. However, these displays do not mean ‘nothing’ as he claims. This is due to the fact that they appear to be done to distract Faustus from considering the spiritual aspects of his contract and considering repentance. Indeed, this view is reinforce by that fact that Mephastophilis only puts on these shows when Faustus beings to doubt his actions and, as a result of Mephastophilis’s influence, Faustus becomes ‘resolved’; he ‘shall never repent’. Therefore, it can be seen that Mephastophilis tricks Faustus into being invariably stuck to his contract. Faustus realises this himself at the end of the play when he calls Mephastophilis a ‘bewitching fiend’ who’s ‘temptation hath robbed me of eternal happiness’. Thus, it can be argued that Faustus fills the role of a gothic victim rather than villain due to the fact that he is controlled and manipulated by gothic supernatural creatures, instead of evoking them himself.
However, it may be seen that Marlowe’s intended portrayal of Faustus is that of a gothic villain due to his use of a Greek tragedy style chorus. The structure of the narrative is constantly interrupted by the chorus which offers the audience time to reflect upon the events of the play and allows them to gain further information. Throughout the course of the play the chorus continually passes moral judgement upon Faustus’s actions, to the extent that, at the close of the play, it warns that Faustus’s ‘fiendful fortune may exhort the wise only to wonder at unlawful things’. This therefore can be seen as suggesting that Faustus’s actions are ‘unlawful’, in the sense of the law of god as much as societal. This suggests that Faustus actions are condemnable and that they are of his own thus characterising him as the villain within the play. However, it can be questioned whether this is Marlowe’s own intention for Faustus. Many critics have suggested that Marlowe himself may have been an atheist, which appears at odds with the message of the play which seemingly promotes religious virtue. This may be put down to the fact that during the Elizabethan era the church had a large influence over the censorship of plays and of most art. This may have meant that Marlowe would have had to present Faustus as a gothic villain who is unavoidably condemned, since any alternative presentation may have been seen as going against Christian ideology. Therefore, this may have meant that Faustus was purposely intended to be seen as a villain within the play.
Overall, it may be seen that Faustus does fulfil the role of a gothic villain within the play. This is due to his transgressive actions portraying him as going against god and is subsequently punished thus characterising him as a villain. Indeed, it may be argued that gothic villains possess, to some extent, a degree of sympathy due to the fact that their actions are typically in pursuit of a noble goal or beyond their control. This can therefore be seen as explaining Faustus apparent victim nature, thus solidifying him as a gothic villain.
A notable theme within Gothic literature is that of entrapment, be it of characters, setting or the narrative itself. This entrapment can take many forms and can have varying significance within individual texts. Within Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, entrapment is both physical and metaphorical, where boundaries and limitations are transgressed and characters are imprisoned within their emotions. Similarly, in Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Doctor Faustus’, the protagonist appears trapped within the consequences of his own actions, yet he is also entrapped by supernatural forces. In contrast, in ‘The Bloody Chamber’, Angela Carter does not only use a sense of entrapment to build characterisation, but also in the very construction of the narration itself for the purpose of immersing the reader within it.
In Emily Bronte’s novel ‘Wuthering Heights’, entrapment can be seen to be a clear theme within the narrative. It can be noted that within the novel Bronte constantly focuses upon physicals boundaries such as locks, keys, gates, fences, doors and walls. There are numerous instances of characters being trapped or barred by these physical limitations, including Lockwood being left in the cold by the Heights ‘infernal inmates’; his attempt to bar Catherine’s ghost from his room and when Nelly is imprisoned at the Heights by Heathcliff. The purpose of these barriers may be seen to be as Bronte’s intention to separate binary opposites: culture and nature; human and supernatural. However, all of these enclosure are eventually violated. Therefore, it may reflect the Gothic aspect of transgression within the novel since the crossing of boundaries may be seen as Bronte not only questioning the limitations of Victorian society, but as that of human knowledge.
Indeed, Bronte’s use of entrapment is metaphorical as well as physical. Many of the characters appear trapped within the novel due to marriages and emotions limiting their true ambitions. Most significantly of all though is Catherine Earnshaw, who aspires to possess a connection to both nature and culture. In marrying Edgar Linton she becomes ‘an exile, and outcast’ and is ‘weary to escape into that glorious world…not…yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart’. Bronte’s use of metaphor here can be clearly seen as suggesting how Catherine feels imprisoned within a world that she does not consider her own and is thus longing to escape. This sense of entrapment is due to Bronte’s creation of a strong association between Catherine and nature, since it was her ‘chief amusement to run away to the moors in the morning and remain there all day’. This clearly portrays her as being almost a part of nature since that is where she feels happiest. This is why she feels entrapped within the culture of Thrushcross Grange, which can be seen as symbolic of the patriarchal expectations of society. In fact, within Victoria art and literature there was held the commonly held view that women are associated with nature and men with culture. Therefore, it may be seen that she is never able to truly achieve her goal of a unification between the two due to her femininity and connection to nature making her incompatible within the masculine world of culture, and is thus imprisoned within an almost purgatory between the two. Furthermore, it may be seen that this image of femininity being entrapped within masculinity may be seen as being reflected in the very nature of the narrative. The majority of the narrative is told by Nelly, yet it may be seen that this is an internal voice within the external masculine narrative of Lockwood thus suggesting that a female voice requires the legitimisation of a male’s. In fact, this can be seen as Bronte commenting upon the misogynistic nature of the publishing of literature at the time where she herself had to use a male pseudonym, Ellis Bell, to be able to legitimise her novel.
Similarly, Angela Carter uses entrapment within ‘The Bloody Chamber’ as both a form of characterisation and as a narrative technique. In the tale of ‘The Lady of the House of Love’, the Countess appears imprisoned by her ‘ancestral crimes’ which condemn her to a ritualised and repetitive immortality, to the extent that she herself is a ‘haunted house’. Carter’s use of imagery here to describe the Countess can be seen as mirroring the ‘ruinous’ state of her abode, which appears to fulfil the ‘Gothic eternity of vampire legends’ due to its traditionally Gothic labyrinth-like setting: ‘Worm-eaten beams, cobwebs…endless corridors…winding stair cases’. Therefore it may be seen that Carter uses the theme of entrapment to develop the characterisation of supernatural creatures and to form a traditionally Gothic setting. However, it may be argued that Carter’s use of entrapment is contradictory to the typically conventions of Gothic literature. This is because her portrayal of the supernatural vampire does not promote a sense of horror but rather that of pity since her constant emotion is that of ‘sadness’. This is due to the Countess ‘unwillingness for the role’ of Gothic villain, suggesting that her actions are beyond her control and she is equally the victim and much as the villain of the tale. Indeed, this presentation of a seemly innocent female character may be seen as adhering to Carter’s feminist perspective due to the fact that the girl is forced to behave horrifically as a result of the influence of her masculine ancestor’s thus potentially criticising the ways in which women are controlled by paternal figures.
Whereas, in the tale of ‘The Erl-King’ Carter uses entrapment as a structural technique to engage the reader within the narrative. Carter’s use of narrative voice within the tale is not constant, nor is the structure of events liner. Instead the edges of space and time become blurred as the ‘wood swallows you up’. The narrative voice shits from the distant third person to a direct address in the second person then to an immersive first person narrative from the view of the female protagonist. Throughout this shifting narrative voice Carter also moves between past, present and future tenses. The effect that this creates is that of imprisoning the reader within the narrative and within the disorienting woods. However, this appears at odds with the fact that within the woods ‘all is as it seems’. Although, it may be seen that this is intended to suggest that events of the tale are not a supernatural illusion but are in fact an allegorical reflection of the natural processes of the passing of the seasons.
Furthermore, within Marlowe’s ‘Doctor Faustus’ the protagonist can be seen to be entrapped within the consequences of his own actions. In the play the protagonist, Faustus, signs a contract with the devil in which is he sells his soul ‘for vain pleasure of four-and-twenty years’. Although this appears to liberate Faustus, it actually entraps him within the confinements of his contract. He is now imprisoned within the limit of the time that he has left, something that he has no control over since the power that he gains from the contract is only over the physical world. Although, it can be argued that Faustus soul is never truly condemned until he is dragged to hell which is why the Mephastophilis and other devils constantly distract with physical pleasures that ‘delight thy mind’ in order to prevent him from questioning the certainty of his damnation. Therefore, it can be seen that it is supernatural forces that imprison Faustus, rather than his own unwillingness to repent. Indeed, in the closing scene of the play it appears as though the devil’s control over his physical world prevents him from repenting. This is because Faustus claims that ‘he stays my tongue! I would lift up my hands, but see, they hold them’. Marlowe can be seen to be suggesting here that Faustus’s inability to assume the position of prayer is what prevents him from seeking absolution. However, it can be questioned whether the demons that hold Faustus only exist within his mind and are a creation of his fear of the physical pain that he may receive as a result of his repentance. Therefore, it can be seen that Faustus is entrapped within his contract due to his own fear and the intimidation of supernatural beings. Although, it may be questioned whether this presentation of Faustus being inevitably imprisoned in his fate was Marlowe’s true intention or rather a result of the censorship of the church. During the Elizabethan era the church had a large influence over what was allowed to be shown within plays and therefore may have forced Marlowe to present Faustus as unable to escape his entrapment since it would have been incompatible with Christian ideas for an individual to go against god and not be punished. This may be seen as why the Gothic nature of the play can be seen to be limited due to Faustus’s transgression meeting a convention ending.
Clearly, entrapment holds a strong significance within Gothic literature due to the numerous ways in which it appears within characterisation, setting and narrative construction. The reasons for this significance may be seen to as a result of the Gothic element of transgressing beyond conventional limitations. Since logically there must be a need for entrapment and imprisonment if there is to any form of questioning of what constitutes these boundaries and why they exist.
Notably, the distortion and inversion of traditional family structures is a key theme within the narratives of Angela Carter’s collection of short stories ‘The Bloody Chamber’. At times these inversion fulfil the expectations of their gothic genre and portray sinister, almost horrific, family relationships. This can clearly be seen to be the case within the tale of ‘The Snow Child’ in which sexual desire and family bonds are distorted and merged together. Indeed, the sinister nature of family relationships can also be seen to be reflected within ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ in which family bonds are reduced to monetary values that can easily be gambled. On the other hand, ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’ appears to suggest a more conventional family structure due to there being a strong sense of paternal love and loyalty by the daughter. However, it may be argued that the daughter within the tale is manipulated by male figures and is also used as an assist rather than an individual, thus clearly symbolising a sinister family paradigm. It may be said that this sinister inversion of family relations stems from Carter’s own feminist intentions for the collection, in which she may have wished to empathise the shallow and manipulative nature of traditional patriarchal family relationships.
Arguably Carter’s most graphically horrifying tale within the collection, ‘The Snow Child’ clearly presents a sinister inversion of a traditional family structure. The tale, which is a transposition of the traditional Brothers Grim tale of ‘Snow White’, may be seen as an exploration of sexual jealousy and as an allegory of the familial tensions between parents and children. The Countess within the tale is portrayed as striking due to her ‘shining…pelts of black foxes’, an anthropometric association that creates the image of her sly and cunning sexuality. Although, the Count appears to be unaware of this sexual desirability and is instead focused upon the ‘child of his desire’ which he appears to wish into existence. This child can be seen as a literal representation of the Count’s own child, or as a younger women that usurps his affections from his older wife. The Countess becomes envious of the girl, thus attempt to abandon her and to drown her, but both of which are thwarted by the Count. As a result the symbols of the Count’s affection, the jewellery and clothing, are transposed across to the girl. This can be seen as metaphorical for the shifting of paternal attention away from the wife towards the daughter. The Countess’s third act which she employs against the girl can be seen as placing her within the conventional fairy tale role of the evil step mother from ‘Snow White’ and other tales. This is due to her seemingly harmless offer of a rose, symbolic of natural love, is in fact a guise for more sinister motives. As a result the girl is pricked and subsequently dies. The scene of graphic necrophilia that follows in which the Count ‘thrusts his virile member into the girl’ is one of the most extreme images in the collection. Hence, this horrific image can be seen as epitomising the way in which Carter distorts the traditional family structure, where paternal love is that of base sexual desire and the relationship between mother and daughter is that of a competition for male attention. Carter, who was a member of the feminist movement in the 1970s, may have intended to create this image within the tale for the purpose of reflecting the sinister nature of paternal lead family relationships.
In contrast, the tale of ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’ can be seen as promoting convention family relationships of loyalty and love. The tale is an inversion, albeit a minimal one, of the French fairy tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In the tale Beauty, who is ‘possessed by a sense of obligation to an unusual degree’, is obedient to her father and to the Beast throughout the tale. Indeed, when she neglects her duty as daughter, she becomes ‘a spoiled child’ and she is no longer the perfect women ‘made all of snow’ that she was before. Therefore, it may be seen that this tale promotes conventional family relationships due to it warning that daughters should be loyal and caring to their fathers. However, it may be seen that Carter is in fact being ironic within this tale and emphases the manipulative aspect of the parental role within such relationships. Mr Lyon, the Beast in the tale, is a clear manipulator. His courtship of Beauty is not draw out of a direct love but through negotiations with her father, as would be expected in the traditional patriarchal manner. However, he does so by persuading her father through economic blackmail and ensures that she returns to him through the emotional equivalent. Therefore, it may be seen that the daughter within the tale is dutiful, but her father is far from so, thus prescribing his role as the absent father, who fails to provide for and then abandons his child: a common archetype within both fairy tale narrative structures and gothic ones. Thus, the tale presents a sinister family relationship where the daughter is unaware of ways in which the parental figures she trust abuse and manipulate her.
Similarly, in Carter’s other retelling of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale, ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, the reader is presented with an equally inadequate father figure. Although, this story is in complete contrast to the previous tale, as if Carter is somehow acknowledging the unsatisfactory nature of her own attempt at reworking the myth. In this relationship the narration is given to Beauty who attempts to cope with an inadequate father not from a sense of obligation but from the perspective of protecting the remnants of her inheritance from his hopeless gambling. Indeed, in this tale the Beast appears to be the moral superior to the father due to his clear admonition of the neglected paternal duty to protect the child: ‘If you are so careless of your treasures, you should expect them to be taken from you’. Although, The Beast appears the moral superior he still refers to the girl, like her father, as a ‘treasure’ and a ‘pearl’. Thus, reflecting that both male characters subconsciously objectify the girl and see her as a mere prize to be won. This can be derived to show Carter’s presentation of the sinister nature of the family relationships within the tale. This may also be seen as a social commentary by Carter against the perceived objectification of women within popular culture and the media. Although, girl does appear to gain a new family amongst the supernatural creatures due to her rejection of society and her own gothic metamorphosis into a beast. Carter may be suggesting here that for equal relationships to be able to form, women need to take hold of their own position within society and reject the conventions imposed upon them; that ‘the lamb must learn to run with the tigers’. Although, this can be contradicted by Carter’s setting of the narrative in the typical fairy tale tradition: long ago and in a far-off place. Therefore, by there being spatial and temporal distance to the narrative it reduces the reality of its events and presents a pessimistic context for the climax: that this resolution of family tensions is in itself a fairy tale, an unattainable dream. Hence, not only does Carter present a sinister quality to family relations within ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, but also presents a defeatist premonition of the possibility of the formation of a truly equal family paradigm.
Clearly, Carter presents are wide range of familial relationships within her collection, most of which hold some sinister aspects. Although, typically distorted they appear to all highlight that the source of the corrupted relationships lies in the inadequacies and selfishness of the male figures. This is reinforced by the lack of strong maternal roles within these tales, which suggests that the lack of feminine influence results in the horrific and supernatural events of the tales, thus harmonising with Carter’s own feminist views.
The questioning of the validity of religious beliefs and practices, especially those associated with the gothic element of forbidden knowledge, can be seen as the central focus of Christopher Marlowe’s play ‘Doctor Faustus’. This questioning can be seen as exposing the corruptive and paradoxical elements within religion and religious institutions such as the Catholic Church. Marlowe’s use of language can be seen as revealing this corruption due his use of juxtaposition and irony to highlight the fickle nature of religious beliefs. Indeed, Marlowe’s use of imagery in the presentation of God can be seen as contradicting the traditional Christian doctrine that God is all loving and all powerful, thus exposing the atheist undertones of the play which may be seen as reflecting Marlowe’s own beliefs. On the other hand, the structure of the plays narrative and its conclusion appear to follow the conventions of traditional Christian theology in which reaching for forbidden knowledge is punished. Thus suggesting that the play is not an attack upon religious beliefs and practices, rather it is allegorical warning of the dangers of ambition.
Marlowe’s use of contradictory language can be seen as clearly corrupting religious beliefs and practices. Throughout the play Faustus refers to Mephastophilis as ‘sweet Mephastophilis’ and also to ‘sweet Lucifer’, a clear juxtaposition between their apparent sweetness and their devilish associations. Moreover, Faustus goes on to describe his necromancy books as being ‘heavenly’, an apparent contradiction. Marlowe can be seen as inverting conventional Christian epithets that are typically used to describe God as a method of emphasising how Faustus’s actions are a clear corruption of Christian theology. Although, it may also be seen as reflecting susceptible nature of humanities religious beliefs: where humanity will praise and follow who they think will save them most. This is reflected within the play due to Faustus’s use of the ‘sweet’ to describe the devil and his servants when he believes ‘hell is a fable’. Yet when he becomes aware of the extent of his damnation this description returns to his ‘sweet saviour’. Indeed, this also suggests that belief is directly linked to damnation, since it is only when Faustus truly believes in god that he is fully condemned. Faustus’s disbelief in hell is accompanied by a disbelief in God. He is encouraged by Mephastophilis to believe that hell is a state of mind in which you are without God: ‘For I am damned, and am now in hell’. Throughout the majority of the play he sees the belief in God as a trivial matter and therefore does not fully have the conviction in which to repent. Yet when Faustus realises the existence of God and comes to repent it appears as though it is too late. Thus, the closing Scene of the play exposes that damnation and belief are the same thing for Faustus, since only belief brings him the understanding that generates the pain of damnation. Therefore, this can be seen as a corruption of religious beliefs due belief typically portrayed as bring salvation rather than securing damnation.
Furthermore, the mockery of religious practices is highlighted in the bathos of Scene 8 in which the pope is harassed by an unseen Faustus and Mephastophilis. The low comedy of the Scene in can be seen as a crude attack upon Catholic religious practices. Moreover, the fact that the pair are ‘cursed with bell, book and candle’ – a reference to the close of the Office of Excommunication in which the bell is tolled, the bible closed, and the candle extinguished – can be seen as suggesting the insignificance and ridiculousness of traditional religious practices. This scene may also have been extremely ironic to the audience at the time of the plays creation. This is due to the aggressive nature of the protestant attitude towards Catholicism in the Elizabethan era where the pope himself was reviled and commonly referred to as the Antichrist. Therefore, it can be seen by the audience as a set of devils tormenting another.
In addition, the depiction of an angry God in the closing scene of the play can be seen as denying the traditional Christian doctrine of God’s absolute goodness and power. Faustus sees an angry, unforgiving God who ‘bends his ireful brows’ down upon him and enforces his ‘heavy wrath’. Yet this imagery is contrasted to that of the fact that God ‘stretcheth out his arm’, suggesting that, although potentially willing, he is as equally bound to the contract as Faustus is. This therefore creates a paradoxical image of God who is both in control of all things but, at the same time, not. Hence, reflecting the atheist and gothic undertones of the play due to this imagery questioning the extent of Gods goodness and power. Indeed, it may also be seen as reflecting Marlowe’s own beliefs, who, many critics believe, was an atheist himself. Although, due to the religious censorship and control during the Elizabethan era, it is difficult to evaluate the extent of to which this is true since Marlowe will have had to make the ideas of the play harmonise with religious ideals.
However, it may be argued that the play does not expose the corruption of religious beliefs due to the structure of the narrative following religious conventions. The narrative of the play appears to follow that of a medieval morality play, a variety of an allegory in which an individual is educated in an ethical topic. Faustus ambition for forbidden knowledge, an endeavour explored extensively within gothic fiction, is inevitably punished for by damnation thus the play is in coherence with Christian theology. In fact, Faustus himself admits that ‘the serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, but not Faustus’, suggesting that Faustus must be punished as Eve was. Yet it is interesting that he is depicted as the snake and not Eve, whose role he appears to mirror. This may be inferred to reflect that Faustus never gains the forbidden knowledge he aspires to but only comes near it through the assistance of another (Mephastophilis). In fact, the consequences of Faustus’s actions can be seen to be dramatically ironic due to being prophesised in the chorus. We are told that it is ‘melting heavens’ that ‘did conspire his overthrow’ when his ‘waxen wings did mount above his reach’. This reference to the Greek myth of Icarus can be seen as clearly showing that Faustus’s ambition will result in suffering. Indeed, Marlowe’s use of a chorus throughout the play can be seen as turning the narrative into that of a parable, in which there is a central narrative that is commented upon, thus associating it with the practices of religious narrative. The chorus provides a clear moral judgement at the end pf the play which is that events may ‘exhort the wise only to wonder at unlawful things’. Therefore, the message of the play can be seen to promote religious beliefs and practices rather than corrupt them
Clearly, religious practices and beliefs, especially Christian ones, are corrupted and inverted within ‘Doctor Faustus’. However, Marlowe’s purpose for this may be seen as to emphasis the depravity of Faustus’s actions and the extent to which he has transgressed against God. Therefore, it may be seen that the play does promote religious values. Although, the extent to which this was Marlowe’s intention can be question due to the religious enforcement of the time.
A notably theme within Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ is that of the entrapment and imprisonment, metaphorically and, in some cases, physically, of women. This entrapment may be seen as presenting the disempowerment of women within the novel. This is reflected in the role of marriage in the narrative, especial that of Catherine and Edgar, in which Catherine’s liberty and independency are sacrificed to meet social conventions. Indeed, Bronte also symbolises female entrapment throughout the novel by the constant reference to boundaries and borders which are used to separate binary opposites such as male and female; nature and culture. Although, none of these boundaries remain intact which highlights the gothic element of transgression within the novel. Therefore, ‘Wuthering Heights’ may be seen as a novel in which the boundaries of female power within Victorian society are questioned rather than reinforced.
The social entrapment of women within ‘Wuthering Heights’ can be seen to be reflect in the structural differences between Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. From Lockwood’s first visit to the Heights, Bronte encourages the reader to perceive the house as being embedded within nature, so much so that it appears almost hellish due to Lockwood’s remarks upon the ‘dismal spiritual atmosphere’ and Heathcliff’s ‘almost diabolical smile’. Therefore the Heights can be read as a completely ungovernable place, devoid of any social conventions. As such it is a space in which both Catherine and Heathcliff are able to gain power and influence, a possibility which would have been refused to them in the nineteenth century, owing to the fact that she is a female and he is illegitimate. This is contrasted to the ‘splendid place, carpeted with crimson’ that is Thrushcross Grange, which can be seen as representative of the standards of patriarchal culture during the time. Within these standards both Catherine and Heathcliff will have been entrapped by their social limitations, hence disempowered. Therefore, the juxtaposition of these settings can be seen as an implicit attack upon patriarchal society and it’s entrapment of not only women, but also those of lower social classes. This is symbolised when Catherine ‘catches her death’ by throwing open the window to let the air in. This act can be read as rupturing the fortifications of civilised life to let the natural world in. This symbolic act of violence which transgresses the boundaries of nature and culture which are intrinsically incompatible can only result in her subsequent death.
Within the novel marriage appears to be an action that forces women to become subservient to their husbands, thus becoming disempowered within Victorian society. The central conflict of the novel can be seen as Catherine’s choice to marry Edgar over Heathcliff. Her marriage creates a union between the two polar opposites of nature and culture, due to Catherine’s strong association to nature and Edgar’s distance. Therefore, by becoming assimilated into the culture of the Grange she becomes ‘an exile, and outcast, thenceforth, from what had been [her] world’, thus separated from nature and Heathcliff. This is contrasted to Catherine’s avowal that anyone who tried to keep her and Heathcliff separate would ‘meet the fate of Milo’, yet it is she herself who divides them. This reference to the Greek myth of the death of Milo in which it is said that he attempted to tear a tree apart when he became trapped and was subsequently eaten by wolves. Not only can this be seen as strongly symbolic of the pairs connection to nature but also infers how Catherine already perceives herself to be trapped. This imprisonment is that of having to meet the conditions of proper femininity, the domesticity of wifedom and motherhood. As shown within countless gothic texts, imprisonment leads to madness, solipsism and paralysis thus suggesting that it is the expectations of domestic life that lead to Catherine’s insanity before her death. Therefore, it may be said that it is marriage that cause females to become disempowered and weakened within ‘Wuthering Heights’.
However, marriage is also portrayed as imprisoning males just as much as females through the marriage between Cathy and Hareton. Hareton is degraded and confined by Heathcliff due to his refusal to provide him any education, as a result he becomes entrapped within his own ignorance. In contrast, Cathy is confined by the protective nature of life at the Grange, in which she lives as ‘a perfect recluse’ and the house is portrayed as being a ‘prison’ and Nelly its ‘jailer’. Structurally then their relationship appears to mirror that of Catherine and Edgar’s in which the pair represent incompatible ideas; formal knowledge and experience. However, by Hareton’s acquisition of knowledge, he is able to integrate into the cultural hegemony of the Grange, something his aunt Catherine was unable to do. Therefore, it appears that the Victorian ideal of domestic bliss is only able to be achieved through the submission of the male and not the female. Indeed, it appears that Catherine is the dominate paramour in the relationship since she is Hareton’s teacher and all the affairs of the house are managed by her. Therefore, this suggests that marriage does not always entrap women within ‘Wuthering Heights’ but can in fact be liberating and empowering.
Furthermore, this concept of subtle female dominance is reflected within the framing of the narrative of the novel itself. The majority of the narrative is dominated by the interior voice of Nelly which is encompassed by the exterior narration of Lockwood. Bronte’s use of dual narration was a technique that was virtually unprecedented at its time and can be interpreted as reflecting that it is women that hold dominance within society, even if it appears that it is males. Although, it may also be seen as suggesting that Nelly’s feminine narration is imprisoned within Lockwood’s to allow the narrative to retain credibility. In fact, this is reflective of the publishing of ‘Wuthering Heights’ itself in which Bronte had to use the male pseudonym of Ellis Bell to be able to get the novel published. Ultimately, this may be seen as Bronte criticising the patriarchal hierarchy of the Victorian era that prevent women from publishing in their own right, thus imprisoning them within their social roles by restricting their ability for expression.
Clearly, it can be seen that Bronte portrays women within ‘Wuthering Heights’ as being entrapped and imprisoned within their social positions. However, Bronte also represents males as being equally trapped and it may be seen that this is intentionally done to criticise the flaws within Victorian society in which the novel was written.
Within Christopher Marlowe’s play ‘Doctor Faustus’, the protagonist describes the demon Mephastophilis as being a ‘bewitching fiend’. This description seams very apt due to Mephastophilis being a fiend in the literal sense; he is a supernatural creature; a demon and servant of the devil. Indeed, it can be seen that he is bewitching due to the way in which he puts Faustus under the illusion that his damnation is inevitable and that there is no hope of redemption. Although, it may be said that Mephastophilis does have some redeemable qualities. These include his empathetic warning to Faustus to not undertake his contract with the devil and his strong sense of loyalty. Therefore, it can be questioned whether Mephastophilis is truly a ‘bewitching fiend’, or whether he is merely a dammed soul who must follow his duty.
Mephastophilis is characterised as being a spirt who was ‘dammed with Lucifer’ for trying to rebel against god and thus is confined to spend eternity in hell. In this sense then Mephastophilis can clearly be seen as being a fiend due to the purpose of his existence being to prey upon ‘glorious souls’. When Faustus attempts to repent Mephastophilis threatens to ‘tear thy flesh’ and then encourages Faustus to commit suicide ‘quickly, with unfeigned heart’ to quicken the completion of his contract. Not only does this harsh imagery reflect his violent and aggressive nature, but also shows the way in which he uses pavlovian style condition to bewitch Faustus. Marlowe uses a repeated sequence of four to emphasis the subtly way in which Mephastophilis convinces Faustus he has no hope of redemption. The sequence follows that Faustus doubts the actions he has done, he is influenced by the evil angel or Mephastophilis, Faustus becomes ‘resolved’ and is then rewarded by a show of physical pleasures. When questioned, Mephastophilis describes these shows as being ‘nothing Faustus, but to delight thy mind’. This shows a trait of Mephastophilis which is to tell the truth and yet a lie at the same time. These spectacles of parading demons and ‘rich apparel’ are to delight Faustus but they do not mean ‘nothing’. They are intended to encourage Faustus to not doubt his actions and to focus on the pleasures of the physical world; the only thing he retains control over. Therefore, it can be seen that Mephastophilis is both ‘bewitching’ and a ‘fiend’ thus matching Faustus’s description within the play.
On the other hand, it can be said that Mephastophilis possesses some redeemable features which prevent him from becoming an entirely malevolent figure. Mephastophilis inspires a certain sympathy within the audience, mainly for the fact that he has suffered eternal damnation for a single mistake. This mistake is that of going against god, one which Faustus intends to make. As a result he makes an empathetic plea to Faustus to ‘leave these frivolous demands, which strike a terror to my fainting soul’. This suggests that Mephastophilis possesses some degree of compassion and is not completely heartless. It also reminds the audience that he is still has a soul and therefore still retains feelings and emotions. This reduces his power as a gothic villain within the play since he does not have a destructive monomania against humanity. Although, this multi-layer characterisation of Mephastophilis may in fact be incompatible with the morality play structure of ‘Doctor Faustus’. In traditional medieval morality plays, upon which ‘Doctor Faustus’ can be seen as being based, characterisation is usually limited and, apart from the protagonist, characters are seen to be symbolic of ideas rather than personalities to be developed. Therefore, Marlowe may have intentionally have made Mephastophilis appear a ‘bewitching fiend’ to be symbolic of the horrors and trickery of servants of the devil.
Although, these sympathies towards Mephastophilis are extended by the cause of his suffering being that of loyalty. Mephastophilis confesses how he was one of the ‘unhappy spirits that fell with Lucifer/ Conspired against our God with Lucifer/ And are for ever damned with Lucifer’. Marlowe’s use of repetition here of Lucifer highlights the attachment between the pair and how he has remained loyal to him throughout his condemnation. This strong devotion is contrasted with that of Faustus who happily switches masters from God to Lucifer for personal gain. This suggests that Mephastophilis, a supernatural demon, possesses greater moral strength than that of Faustus, who can be seen as being symbolic of humanity as a whole. Therefore, reduces the validity of the description of Mephastophilis being merely a ‘bewitching fiend’. However, loyalty may be seen as being a respectable characteristic among a modern audience, but to its original Elizabethan audience, conspiring against god would have been seen as an unforgivable sin. Hence, to an original audience Mephastophilis will have been seen as a terrifying ‘fiend’ and not as a relatable villain.
Clearly, Mephastophilis does appear to possess some redeemable features within the play that reduce his status as a dominating gothic villain. However, Faustus’s description of him being a bewitching fiend’ does appear to be accurate due to his demonic nature and deceit.
Notably within gothic writing a common theme is that of the exploration of the unknown. Often the unknown or supernatural is portrayed as being disturbing or horrific; that it is something to be feared and not understood. Arguably this perspective is not shared between all gothic texts, some of which depict creatures and aspects of the unknown as being misunderstood rather than being mythical. It may be seen that the unknown is traditionally shown to be disturbing for the purpose of deterring the reader from exploring the unknown themselves due to it reaching beyond religious constraints.
Within Marlowe’s play ‘Doctor Faustus’, it can be said that the narrative depicts a strongly disturbing exploration of the unknown. The protagonist of the play Faustus attempts to ‘resolve [himself] of all ambiguity’ by gaining omnipotent power and knowledge of existence through selling his soul to the devil for ‘four-and-twenty’ years of earthly power. Faustus intends to reach beyond the limitations of humanity and develop a better understanding of the unknown, for which he is punished and dragged down to ‘ugly hell’. This horrific imagine can be seen as symbolic of the disturbing consequences of exploring the unknown. Structurally this is reinforced by Marlowe’s use of a chorus throughout the play, a common feature within traditional Greek tragedies. Its purpose is to pass judgement over the play and to prevent Faustus being perceived as being a tragic hero but rather a fool who is ‘condemned to die’. The final chorus of the play pleads that Faustus’s ‘fiendful fortune may exhort the wise/ only to wonder at unlawful things’. This can be seen as a clear indication that the purpose of the play is to warn of the disturbing nature of the unknown and in doing so prevent further questioning. Although, it can be questioned if this is Marlowe’s own view or is in fact the result of the Catholic Church’s censorship during the time. The Church had a great power during the Elizabethan era so Marlowe may have feared punishment if he were to write a play that appear to question the power and existence of God. Indeed, from this view it may be said that Faustus is symbolic of the Renaissance ideals which questioned past ideas on religion, science and art. The Church condemned these views and believed it would result in damnation thus potentially influencing the way in which Marlowe was able to explore the unknown.
Similarly, Angela Carter depicts the exportation of the unknown as being horrific and disturbing in her collection of short stories ‘The Bloody Chamber’. The title tale of the collection can be seen as being an allegory of the Christian tale of Geneses. This is due to its questioning of the borders of human knowledge and warning of the consequences of reaching for forbidden knowledge. In the narrative the narrator, a newly wed bride, is warned by her husband the Marquis not to enter his secret chamber while he is away. However, the narrator, ‘like Eve’, ignores this warning and enters ‘the bloody chamber’ anyway to find the ‘mutilation’ and ‘annihilation’ of the Marquis’s past wives. As punishment for her disobedience the Marquis condemns her to death, yet is saved by her mother through Carter’s use of Deus ex machine plot device. This can be seen as clearly reflecting the Christian perspective that reaching beyond the limits of human knowledge of the unknown will result in pain or death. Indeed, the disturbing nature of this is emphasised by the strongly gothic description of the gratuitous interior of the chamber. Although, it may be seen that Carter’s intention with this tale, and the collection as a whole, was to invert traditional fairy tales with a feminist perspective. In this case the Marquis horror and cruelty may be seen as reflecting that of patriarchal society which is why it is the bride’s mother that comes to the rescue not another male character.
On the other hand, the tale of ‘The Lady of the House of Love’ in the collection depicts the known world as being far more disturbing than the unknown. In the tale the Countess is characterised as being a supernatural creature since she is part of the ‘gothic eternity of the vampires’ and is herself ‘unnatural’. Whereas, the young British soldier is described as being ‘rational’ thus he becomes symbolic of masculine single mindedness. It can be seen that the soldier’s initial approach to the Countess fulfills expectation for a disturbing exploration of the unknown due to Carter’s use of an overtly gothic setting: ‘cobwebs, worm-eaten beams…endless corridors…winding staircases…eyes of family portraits briefly flicked as they passed’. However, the climax of the narrative does not appear to fulfill this expectation due to it being the masculine rationality that overcomes the supernatural creature. In fact, these events are overshadowed by the fact that the soldier ‘will learn to shudder in the trenches. But this girl cannot make him shudder’. Therefore, Carter appears to suggest that the horrors of war, especially the First World War, and that of the known world are in truth far more disturbing than anyone unknown creature.
Furthermore, Emily Bronte’s exploration of the unknown and supernatural within her novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ can be seen as being extremely disturbing. The extravagance of the ghostly, the supernatural and the unknown in this novel can be seen as being devoted to the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff, and to the descriptions of them as individuals. Throughout the course of the novel both characters are portrayed as being almost gothic creatures rather than people; both are described as being a ‘demon’ and a ‘devil’ alongside other supernatural associations. In fact, they appear to possess a strong attachment to the supernatural, to the extent that Heathcliff has ‘a strong faith in ghosts…that they can and do exist’. The summation of this spectral presence can be seen as being in Lockwood’s dream of Cathy at the beginning of the novel. This dream can be seen as being disturbing on two levels. Firstly, the gratuitous horror of Lockwood sawing the ghosts arm on the broken window is disconcerting. Secondly, the fact that neither Lockwood nor Heathcliff, appear to believe that it was merely a dream; that they both sense some form of supernatural presence. Therefore, within ‘Wuthering Heights’ there appears to a deeply sinister exploration of the unknown nature the afterlife. However, this perspective seems almost contradicted by the closing line of the novel in which Lockwood questions ‘how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumber, for the sleepers in the quite earth’. Bronte’s use sibilance and personification of the earth appear to suggest as peaceful afterlife in which ghosts do not exist. By extension this suggests that gothic exploration of the unknown within the novel is in fact only an illusion brought on by fear of the unknown. Ultimately, Bronte appears to highlight the irrationality of the fear of the unknown and suggests that it is not in fact disturbing.
Clearly, the exploration of the unknown is an aspect that is present extensively within gothic writing. It appears as though this exploration is disturbing due to the horrific events and violence that it is associated with. Although, gothic writing does question the sense in fearing the unknown and discusses the perceived boundaries of human knowledge. Overall, I may be said that it is not the unknown which gothic writing depicts as being disturbing, but rather the questioning of the things the society holds to be true which is truly disconcerting.
‘It is better that one should suffer than that many should be corrupted’. The idea that the needs of the commerce outweigh the suffering of the individual is prominent within both Orwell’s and Huxley’s novels. They both portray how in oligarchical collectivist societies, individual identity is superseded by the need for social efficiency and stability. Although they approach this is in different ways, one brutal and repressive, the other pleasure-obsessed and superficial, ultimately they appear one and the same. Both authors use multiple symbols to reflect this loss of individuality within their dystopian societies, such as, the advancement of technology, religion, and the use of language. They both also stress how the power of totalitarianism does not solely derive from the control of state, it is also based in the weakness of its citizens.
The progression of technology can be seen as symbolic of the demise of the individual in both novels. In Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ individual countries have be replaced with the all-encompassing World State, in which traditional breeding has been replaced by eugenics. Huxley replicates Henry Ford’s production line in the creation of the citizens of the World State. In the first chapter, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning describes the process of how babies are born through in vitro fertilisation in test tubes which are passed along conveyor belts. He also details the method of social determination where those set for lower classes are given alcohol and less oxygen to inhibit mental growth, thus creating an organised social structure with the Alpha Double-Pluses at the top and Epsilons at the bottom. This is then reinforced by the use of ‘neo-pavlovian’ mental conditioning and hypnopaedia for the purpose of ‘making people like their unescapable social destiny’. This causing the population to become both physically and mentally standardised thus destroying individuality by preventing original thought from birth. To further prevent any conscious thought, there is the drug soma to solve the negative aspects of life which even an organised society cannot avoid, such as stress, humiliation and grief. The society, therefore, encourages the excessive use of soma due to it preventing feelings of dissatisfaction with the world; it creates a society where citizens are only semi-conscious that they are individuals. Therefore, these technological progressions lead to the degradation of individual thoughts and feelings within society. This is embodied in the World State’s motto, ‘Community, Identity, and Stability, the middle term of which indicates the sinister truth: that this society can only achieve solidarity and stability by reducing its citizen’s idiosyncrasies. Hence, ‘Identity’ refers not to the development of an individual self, but to the state’s attempt to make everyone identical.
Orwell’s ‘1984’ is set, like ‘Brave New World’, in a future dystopian England where life is controlled by a single political party, mimicking a Stalin-like communist state. In contrast to ‘Brave New World’, technological progression within ‘1984’ is used for the purpose of removing any form of personal privacy from citizens thus eliminating their ability to develop individual thoughts or actions. The Party uses technology as a method of control by having constant surveillance over its population. ‘Telescreens’ watch over the inhabitants of every room as well as constantly issuing party propaganda which ‘could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely’. This is symbolic of the government’s surveillance in general which, no matter how isolated or ‘dimmed’ the protagonist Winston believes himself to be, is still constantly monitoring his actions. Indeed, it appears that even in his rebellion Winston still has no true freedom or individuality. The events of the novel appear to be more than merely coincidental, in fact, they seem almost intended. By Winston being placed in a flat where he is able to escape the surveillance of the ‘telescreen’ then being sold the diary appear to be actions intended facilitate his rebellion. Furthermore, not only does his physical reality appear to be under the influence of the Party but also his mental world shown through his dreams. He dreams of a voice like O’Brien’s saying that ‘we shall meet in the place where there is no darkness’, later O’Brien recognises this phrase and explains that it is in fact the rat torture that he dreams of. Therefore this shows how even in rebellion Winston is incapable of autonomous thought beyond the limits of the Party. This means that although Winston appears to possess an individual identity, it is in fact only superficial due to the government’s use of technology allowing it to control all aspects of the population’s lives resulting in mass standardisation.
The presence of religion within both novels is also symbolic of the loss of individuality within society. This is due to one definition of totalitarianism being that of the secularisation of religious aspirations; to attempt to create a heaven on earth (heaven as seen by those in power). This idea is prolific within ‘1984’ due to the structure of the Party appearing to follow that of a religious organisation. God is replace by Big Brother to the extent that in the first chapter, during the Two Minutes Hate, a woman calls him her saviour and prays to him. The ‘telescreen’ is symbolic of the all-seeing eye of God, the Party members are the saved and O’Brien plays the role of religious inquisitor. Indeed, during Winston’s torture in the third part of the novel, there are numerous references to religion including ‘priest’, ‘heretic’ and ‘thou shalt not’. Furthermore, in Goldstein’s description of ‘blackwhite’, Orwell appears to reference Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who said that ‘what seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines’. The purpose of this is to not only satirise organised religion but to show how, like Communism, it requires the sacrifice of individuality for social stability. In fact, Orwell himself suggested in his essay ‘Inside the Whale’ that Communism and Catholicism have an equal appeal to discontented intellectuals. This is because they both use philosophical arguments to justify their control and have a pseudo-religious promise that, by joining them, individuals will be freed from the negative aspects of human life. Therefore, both totalitarian societies and religious ones aspire to eradicate individuality as a method of survival. They both deny the significance in the relations between people and instead try to connect the individual to a greater scheme.
In contrast, in ‘Brave New World’ religion is replaced by mass consumerism, sexual promiscuity and, most significantly, excessive drug taking. Through the use of conditioning, citizens of the World State are taught to have multiple sexual partners and to take pleasure in superficial entertainment such as the ‘feelies’, a satire on Hollywood ‘talkies’. As mentioned before technology has allowed the development of a drug the drug soma, that has ‘all the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects’. Therefore, these frivolous enjoyments provide a sense of almost pseudo-happiness which acts a supplement for religion in society. The need for religion stems from an individual’s fear of the unknown and their inability to deal with the issues that they face within their lives. In Huxley’s state, the issues that people face in day to day life have all been resolved due to soma allowing them to escape reality and only become semi-conscious of their problems. Moreover, there is no longer any fear of the unknown due to citizens being conditioned to no longer fear death so they no longer seek absolution in the afterlife. This therefore means that religion is obsolete, since the fear which it is created from no longer exists. Indeed, it appears in both novels that fear, in relation to social stability, follows Newton’s first law of motion: that constant fear or an utter lack of results in a society remaining in equilibrium. However, this lack of religion does not necessarily create a greater level of individual freedom, in fact, society appears even further standardised. This is due to in a religious state people are still conscious of being an individual and are aware of the world beyond their immediate experience, whereas, is not the case in the World State.
In addition, both authors use the creation and manipulation of language to symbolise the destruction of individual thought within their societies. The poet William Blake once noted that ‘the sayings used in a nation mark its character’, an observation that is evident within both novels due to the use of constant phrases that support social order. A major stylistic feature of Huxley’s use of language is that of parody, be it in songs, religion or even science. Not only does the World State provide citizens with caricature of entertainment and religion, it also provides a parody of meaningful language. All poetic and emotive language is fallen out of use and replaced by sleep taught phrases such as ‘Ending is better than mending’ and ‘Everyone belongs to everyone else’. These phrases become almost categorical imperatives that all the population live by. This means when they are faced with a difficult situation they are unable to articulate themselves so they fall back on these template phrases. This is similar to the use of ‘Newspeak’ in ‘1984’ which is designed ‘to narrow the range of thought’. ‘Newspeak’ is a language created by the state which is intended to make the ideas of Ingsoc (Newspeak for English Socialism, the Party’s political ideology) the only thoughts that can be expressed. It works by erasing all words that could be seen as a threat to the government’s power and contracting all those that are deemed not to be. The purpose of is to ‘make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it’. Therefore, in both novels the destruction of the range of language reflects the loss of the capability for individual thought. Overall, the purpose seems to be for humans to achieve the standardised language of a machine, thus not only behaving like a machine but being forced to think like one.
However, Huxley’s presentation of John the Savage can be seen as questioning whether a wider vocabulary truly leads to a greater capacity for individual thought. John’s knowledge of Shakespearian language allows him to become more morally conscious thus he is able to criticise both of the worlds that he visits. Although, this does not necessarily mean that he possess more individuality since he sometimes appears to parrot the language in the same way that citizens of the World State do. He confuses Ariel and Puck in Chapter 11 and he initially perceives Lenina as having ‘vestal modesty’, which is ironic since she has been conditioned not to. This shows how John is not fully conscious of the words meaning but instead uses them to express emotions that he cannot comprehend. This shows how even the poetic language of Shakespeare still stereotypes and standardises people, and therefore can be seen as being no better than the language of the World State. Furthermore, it can be seen that Shakespearian language has a conditioning effect upon John. It teaches him to cherish romanticism and passion in the same way that the sleep-hypnosis teaches the ‘civilised’ people the opposite. From an objective perspective, it would appear that these teachings are equally as corruptive to the natural mind, that they both promote standardisation and the loss of individual thought.
In conclusion, it is clear that in both novels individuality has been sacrificed for the sake of fixed social structures. Both authors symbolise this sacrifice through technological progression, religious metanarratives and the manipulation of language. Neither author passes a judgement on whether this loss is right or wrong, but instead allows their narratives to stand as warnings for the potential fate of modern society.
Bibliography 1) Huxley, Aldous; Brave New World; 1932; Chatto and Windus 2) Orwell, George; Nineteen Eighty-Four; 8 of June 1949; Secker and Warburg 3) Loyola, Ignatius; The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola; 1548 4) Orwell, George; Inside the Whale and Other Essays, Victor Gollancz Ltd.; 11 March 1940 5) Blake, William; The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; A Memorable Fancy; 1790