Some prominent gothic elements that appear in the motion film Coraline are the somber and mysterious atmosphere with strange, glum people, suspenseful foreshadowing and omens, and an alternate universe. Coraline is a story of a young girl that finds a door to an idealized version of her reality, without realizing that there is a sinister secret there. In the short story The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether, the narrator discovers an old asylum he wanted to explore, and when he does, he also discovers an unsettling truth after being invited to a strange dinner hosted by an even stranger man who introduces himself as the director.
Similarities between the film and the short story are the elements, for one. The settings create atmospheres that are very unsettling for the readers, as both main characters in these stories don’t come to an understanding in the beginning. Coraline’s alternate universe is completely “perfect” and everything she’s ever wanted and the narrator joins a seemingly normal dinner party with guests who are seemingly normal at first glance. They are both blinded momentarily by their naivety and curiosity, which leave them vulnerable to being taken advantage of.
The foreshadowing and omens that occur that the characters are either oblivious to or disregard. In Coraline, this happens continually throughout the film, from the doll that’s identical to her, to the elder women’s premonitions with their tea leaf reading, and the words of the ghosts Coraline speaks to, and the black cat, to name a few of them. In the short story, when the narrator’s friend refuses to join him on his exploration of the asylum, the sight of the asylum itself, and the very words of Monsieur Maillard, who says, “Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see.”
The alternate universes seen in both stories are metaphors, as well. Coraline’s idyllic world gone disastrous had been her way of coping with her anxieties about the abrupt changes in her life, and what growing up meant for her. In The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether, the alternate universe had been the false reality the patients of the asylum had created for themselves after trapping the doctors.
These metaphoric characteristics uphold the theme for both stories being that things aren’t always as they seem. Some of the texts we’ve read this semester that reminds me of certain parts of Coraline have to be Carmilla. Specifically, the “other mother” – or Beldam – reminds me of Carmilla, herself. The similarities I see are the fact that both Carmilla and the Beldam pretended to be someone they weren’t in order to lure in unsuspecting victims for their own gain.