Prof. Westengard | O628 | Fall 2022

blog 5

I think that analyzing Gothic metaphors is as interesting and fun as experiencing Gothic literature itself. To see how society manifests its fears into something like scary stories, whether they are meant to be warnings to be heeded or simply just to give a fright because humans have come to almost enjoy being scared – which is an entirely other, equally interesting subject of conversation – is all very fascinating to discover and learn. With the different Gothic texts we’ve read this semester, there are many parallels that I’m sure are present in other works we haven’t read and even in works today. A common one I’ve noticed is the gender roles being portrayed in these stories, men who are shown to be strong, powerful, and destructive and women who are treated as if they are not an individual, inferior, and dependent; a very patriarchal view. 

In The Castle of Otranto, the main women of the story – Isabella, Hippolita, and Matilda – despite knowing they are being used as pawns in a political and spiteful agenda, continue to be completely devoted to each of the men in their lives. Hippolita is the one to outright claim that as a woman, they do not have a right to make choices for themselves, encourages the girls to believe that whatever happens to them is up to their fathers, husbands, and their god. Even if that means they must still be devoted even after the man has done something as terrible as kill them, as what happened with Manfred and Matilda. The men, however, all view the women as nothing more than objects that will do whatever they tell them to without question or protest – whether that be to spend their life with whoever their hand is shoved into, accept a divorce passively, or allow them to use their bodies however they deem fit, to name a few. 

In the stories of Carmilla and The Vampyre, women are continued to used as objectifiable, throw away characters. In The Vampyre, Ianthe is depicted as “beautiful and delicate” by Aubrey and he claimed her as his lover, but still refused to take her warnings as anything more than the rambling of an imaginative woman, and for this, Ianthe ended up dying. Another woman had also been the victim of Lord Ruthven’s seduction as well. In Carmilla, Laura almost loses her life because of her father’s refusal to believe that the supernatural was real and the cause of what he considered a natural occurrence. 

1 Comment

  1. Laura Westengard

    You make some powerful observations here! It is true that these themes appear in other Gothic texts. If you are interested in reading more, you might enjoy Frankestein. The theme of women as objects that are thrown away is present in that Gothic text but in a unique way. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, women are so unimportant that they don’t even really appear as characters at all!

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