Indeed, through all these settings and manning points that are discussed in all those stories, a dark, obscure and lugubrious framework surrounds the readers. This being said our argument is essentially that Gothic literature is always merciless and wicked in every story. In this paper we shall argue that those main settings are the most important points in Gothic literature. The basic purpose of this paper is to show that gothic literature has specific rules in order for the reader to be in this typical type of atmosphere.
We intend to demonstrate that through the themes of isolation, the sorrowful atmosphere and the egocentric characters – there are the entire element to create a heartless story. To demonstrate that gothic literature is always heartless in every story, this paper will discuss three main arguments: First of all, this paper will describe and develop the gothic motifs and conventions. Secondly, it will analyze the importance of isolation that leads to insanity in most of gothic stories. Finally, we will show that gothic literature draws an ironical image of romantics’ literature.
For this first part, this paper will announce the Gothic motifs and conventions that are essential for a good gothic story. This paper will illustrate firstly the motifs of Gothic literature by introducing four different texts: Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley, “The Oval Portrait” by Edgar Poe, “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. All those texts respond to a certain list of criteria’s that are irrevocable in Gothic literature. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818, the story is about a Doctor (Victor Frankenstein) that is obsessing about his creation and finally is disappointed.
The second text is called “The Oval Portrait”- it was written by Allan Poe in 1850 and this story deals with a painter that is so passionate about his art that he forgets his love. The third text is title “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and this is the story of a young girl that falls into insanity through isolation. Finally, the fourth and last text is “A Christmas Carol” from Charles Dickens which is about an old man that hates the Christmas period, because it is the time of the year where everyone does charity.
Scrooge is miser and gives a low pay to his employee and no time to rest. One day, going back home, three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve: the spirit of Christmas of the past, present and future. Those ghosts listed his mistakes and Scrooge recovers and become a happy man and a benediction to the society. A good story always starts with an important description of the place and setting. Indeed, in Chapter 5 of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley describes the area by giving adjectives on where the scene takes place: “It was on a dreary night…” (Shelley 1).
By doing this, the author is putting us directly in gloomy and mysterious atmosphere that are present in Gothic literature. According to Adrian Beard place and setting in Gothic literature is “a place where extreme actions and passions can seem oddly appropriate”. This means that locations that are described in Gothic stories are barely livable. Indeed, it is often in a remote building surrounded by a mysterious landscape and darkness. For instance in Frankenstein’s story, Mary Shelley uses a horror lexical phrase that gives the reader goose bumps: She describes the place and the environment where Dr.
Victor Frankenstein lives where “the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and [his- Dr. Victor Frankenstein] candle was nearly burnt out, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light…” (Shelley 1). Another important point concerning the setting is the enclosed and even claustrophobic space, where the scene takes place. For example, in “The Oval Portrait” the narrator describes us the room where the painter draws as a dark place: “The position of the candelabrum displeased me…” (Poe 1). This shows us that the narrator is in complete darkness.
Both of the stories give a description of a isolated house where the main characters lives: “… it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned” (Poe 1) and “… an inhabitant place…” (Shelley 1). Those deep descriptions install even more an uncomfortable atmosphere and set the tone to upcoming events. An American author, William Faulkner, wrote in 1930 “A Rose for Emily”: the whole story is about the isolated life of a young girl in Jefferson City. Her father has always over protected Emily. The young girl developed a particular behavior through her lifetime and those steps lead her to insanity.
Concerning the place and setting motif that build one of the most important pillar of Gothic literature, the author describes it as “a big, squarish frame house… in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies…” (Faulkner 1). The second main point in Gothic convention is the presence of a male protagonist: Indeed, in each of those type of story there is the presence of an anti-hero who appeals yet repulses the external world. For example, Doctor Frankenstein is one of those male protagonists as he lives alone in a mysterious place and wants to create something that he finally hates (Shelley 1).
Indeed, Dr. Victor Frankenstein defined his creature as “a catastrophe”, through his eyes the creature is impure and comes from the devil (Shelley 1). In fact, Victor is seen as the person who puts “ nearly two years, for the sole purpose if infusing life into an inanimate body”(Shelley 1) and after having the result of it, he is disappointed and does not want to take care of it any longer: “I escaped” (Shelley 1). Another characteristic point of the male protagonist is the fact that these types of people are solitary and egocentric.
For instance, in “The Oval Portrait”, the painter does not express the need to be socialized and wants only to practice his art by drawing his wife. According to the narrator, the painter was “passionate, studious, austere and having already a bride in his Art” (Poe 2). This quote shows the reader that the painter is obsessive and wants to do nothing else but his art. In “A Christmas Carol’, the main character is also a male protagonist named Scrooge, who always is alone and hates everyone: “Nobody even stop him in the street to say…”How are you Scrooge?
”… No man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such place, of Scrooge”(Dickens 2). In “A Rose for Emily” it is Emily that has problems: she is considered as a victim- this is the third Gothic convention. Emily is victim of her father’s restrictions: she has been isolated all her life and this is the dark side of this particular story from William Faulkner. Indeed, Emily is a trembling victim as she is psychologically trapped: she had no other chose but to do what her father required. Emily is a victim as she falls into insanity through isolation caused by her father.
For instance, she continued claiming that her father was not dead even though he was (Faulkner 4). Now that this paper discussed the Gothic Motifs, we will turn into the Gothic conventions that allow us to understand even more the particularity of Gothic literature. Gothic stories have a link with transcending boundaries and especially in Frankenstein: Victor Frankenstein created through a dead body something human. This shows the balance between mortality and immortality. What he did is impossible in real life and by creating his monster he brings back to life a dead person.
In “The Oval Portrait”, the painter draws a portrait of his wife that is disturbing the narrator’s view: “ to make sure that my vision had not deceived me… I again looked fixedly at the painting. ” (Poe 1). In fact, the thing that disturbs our narrator is the fact that the painting looks real and the long descriptions of the painting was not made randomly by our author. Poe did this huge description to transcend mortality and immortality; he gave the painter’s wife a second life through the painting. Reading this make us feel fear which is the second Gothic motif: the presence of the sense of fear in the stories.
Indeed, in Frankenstein, the Doctor felt anxiety seeing the result of his creation. He ran away from his creature: “I escaped, and rushed down stairs. ” (Shelley 1) and is so frightened by the monster that he does not want to face him: “I dreaded to behold this monster” (Shelley 3). Moreover, the link between fear and the creature is that Victor Frankenstein should have thought of this problem and finally it brings up the next Gothic motif: the Faust motif meaning the forbidden knowledge that Victor Frankenstein faced.
He decided to create from a dead body a human and this can be taken as the forbidden experiment. Indeed, it is impossible to create something from a dead body and it is very disturbing to think that Victor did it – he played with fire. The third Motif is the tension existing between science and supernatural: in fact, it is exactly what happened in Frankenstein with the creature. Victor wanted to appeal science to create “his person” however it turned out that his creation became supernatural and unsuccessful, according to Victor. Secret, is another Gothic motif that is significant in those stories.
In “A Rose for Emily”, the young girl after her father’s death became depressed and even more mysterious:” She was sick for a long time…” (Faulkner 4). Those changes made her become a madwoman: she had a secret and no one knew until a long time that she killed the man she loved by using poison. “The man himself lay in the bed” (Faulkner 8). The last Gothic motif is the presence of the main character’s dreams, nightmares that are revealing their unconscious mind. For example, in Frankenstein, Mary Shelley gives the reader a description of Victor’s dreams:” I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams.
I thought I saw Elizabeth… I embraced her; … her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms…” (Shelley 1). This description gives more detail on what happen in the main character’s life and his characteristics. Now that this paper introduced the reader the Gothic conventions and motifs, it will turn into the isolation problem that leads to insanity. To introduce this problem of insulation, this essay will analyze and illustrate the process of insanity through Faulkner’s story: “A Rose for Emily”. Indeed, the whole story describes the isolated life of Emily in
Jefferson City. She has been protected all her life from the external world. As a matter of fact, Emily developed a particular personality that does not match with the community’s. Through this story, William Faulkner wants to demonstrate that forcing isolation can lead to insanity. This part will analyze Emily’s behavior all along the story and the relation she had with the community, and, in a second part, the paper will examines the correlation between community and isolation. The author puts forward the idea that Emily is a woman that is confronted by the society.
Indeed, Emily has been forced to stay separated from the external world and to be isolated:” Miss Emily had been a tradition… he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets…” (Faulkner 1). In fact, one of the rare people who talks to Emily is a Negro man that does not speak: this person is taken as an example from Emily’s father to illustrate the right behavior Emily should adopt. Even after Emily’s father’s death, the young lady continues to behave the same way as usual: “After her father’s death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all” (Faulkner 2).
By illustrating this, the author shows two aspects of Emily’s isolation: First of all, the fact that her father forced her to live excluded from civilization and to men’s presence and secondly, the fact that Homer Barron’s objective was to separate her from everybody and this is what Emily’s father wants. Further on, Emily’s father judges the others and declares to his daughter that she is higher placed compared to the rest of the community. Indeed, Emily’s father has generally taken all the decisions and reactions in order to protect his daughter. Mr.
Grierson had always the habit to control the men that wanted to have a relationship with Emily and who came in front of their house:” None of the young men were quite enough for Miss Emily and such…” (Faulkner 2). He esteems that Emily is too perfect for those people however; he did not take into consideration Emily’s feelings. According to research by John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago psychologist and one of the top loneliness expert, loneliness is strongly connected to factors include situational variables, such as physical isolation. By saying this, it is a way to understand Emily’s insanity (Cherry 1).
Furthermore, isolation has negative effects on both physical and mental health (Cherry 1). Loneliness makes people become more antisocial and plunged in depression (Cherry 2) and this is exactly what happens in “A Rose for Emily”. Turning from the comparisons of Emily with the society, this paper will immediately face the community in which Emily lives with her isolation problem. First of all, this essay will analyze the community’s role before turning to the result of Emily’s isolation. In this lecture, the role of the external world (here the community where Emily lives) has a vital role.
Indeed, William Faulkner decided to denounce isolation through a voice that testifies for all the people in the community. In fact, the reader sees Emily through the community side: we do not know exactly who the narrator is as s/he is hiding him/herself behind the pronoun “we”: “People in our town” (Faulkner 3). The narrator gives a description of Emily’s family and considers them as “ a tableau” (Faulkner 3). Ultimately, as the community does not know much about Emily’s family they feel compassion for them: “That was when people had begun to feel sorry for her” (Faulkner 3).
Indeed, Emily’s father’s death made Emily become even more isolated. Beside, Emily does not accept that her father died and told the community that her father was not dead (Faulkner 4). Another huge moment that constitutes Emily’s loneliness is when “[Miss Emily] vanquished them, horse and foot, just has vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell” (Faulkner 2). The story ends with a revelation: Emily’s fiance- Homer Baron- is dead and has been poisoned by Emily herself: “The man itself lay in the bed” (Faulkner 7).
The purpose of this part was to determine that forcing isolation could lead to insanity. Emily’s life was a chaos and she could not enjoy her life as she was used to isolation and being afraid of mixing with the community. She killed her own lover as she wanted to respect her father’s wish and this is an irony of romanticism literature. In fact, this paper will now, define, analyze and compare Gothic literature with romantics’ stories. Despite the name, romanticism does not have a real connection with the word “romantic”.
Indeed, Romanticism is a genre from the 18th century that revokes aristocratic society. (Hume 1). However, Gothicism was born in the 19th century and is categorized by a macabre and gloomy atmosphere. The Gothic literacy movement uses in all stories magic, blood, ghosts and supernatural powers (Hume 1). According to Hume, “Gothic and romantic writing are closely related chronologically and share some themes and characteristics…”(Hume 1). However, in all Gothic Romantic stories that we studied in class we can remark that all love is impossible and destroyed by a dark event.
Indeed, in Frankenstein, Dr. Victor Frankenstein who created the creature finally hates it. This was not his plan as he dedicated two years for this project. In fact, when someone is creating something the reader expects a positive relationship between the creator and the creation – this is not the case in this gothic story. The love that could have born between the two characters will not happen. Actually, all horror stories expressed the dark side of human nature and terrified their readers (Hume 1).
The same happens in “The Oval Portrait” as the painter who creates the portrait was so obsessed and determined to live from his art: He was so besotted from his art that he drops his love to devote all his time to paint. Through isolation he falls into insanity and could not make the love possible. Here again, it is about an impossible love that reduces the painter’s wife as a victim. The third and obvious example is in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, as Emily was so forced into isolation that she killed, with poison, the man she loved.
Emily wanted to respect her father’s wish as, according to him, no one is good enough for Emily (Faulkner 4). In fact, by forcing isolation Emily’s father led her to insanity: she did not enjoy her life and fell on the dark side. Another type of stories that mix Gothic atmosphere and romantic is the romantic Gothic Poetry and Short Stories: “[This type of stories] were fascinating to the people at the time. These horror stories captivated their audiences and often turned their authors into some of the most famous people
in the world” (Hume 1). An example of this particular type of story is Frankenstein, as it is a classical of Gothic story. Furthermore, according to Hume, “some Gothic novels are more than the sentimental fiction of the day fitted with outlandish trappings, in which case “sentimental-Gothic” and “historical-Gothic” are misnomers. ” (Hume 1). Indeed, the key “characteristics of Gothic and romantic writing are quite distinct” (Hume 4): Frankenstein can be seen as a story that expresses the character’s feelings among his creation.
Indeed, “from nature alone the romantics attempt to derive feelings which earlier in European history were organized and sustained in a supernatural Christian framework. ” (Hume 4). Finally, this paper has shown that, indeed, in Frankenstein, “A Rose for Emily” and “The Oval Portrait”, there is an impossible love that is inexistent due to the main characters’ obsession and isolation. The purpose of the current study was to determine that Gothic literature is always heartless. It shows that through Gothic motifs and conventions, gothic stories cannot end otherwise than pitiless.
We began by announcing and analyzing the Gothic motifs and conventions before turning to the problem of isolation that is present in most of those stories. This paper has revealed the danger associated with gothic literature, meaning: darkness, ruthless and mysterious atmosphere. There are two main conclusions that may be drawn from this paper: first of all that gothic literature is gloomy and the reader becomes uncomfortable by reading those type of stories and, secondly, that Gothic literature is still nowadays famous for its rituals of writing methods.
The most obvious finding to emerge from this study is that Gothic literature is unfeeling. In our analysis of this topic, we have found that Gothic literature is always heartless as in all stories, some specials rules have to be respected: those are the Gothic motifs and conventions. Our study has shown a correlation between Gothic motifs and conventions; and the huge problem of isolation.