Gothic genre is a style of literature that puts together both elements of horror and romance. It is thus sometimes referred to as Gothic fiction or gothic horror. It is believed to have evolved in the 1960s from a novel the Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. The literature was designed to scare readers by use of mystery and blood-curdling accounts of horrific scenes such as murder, villainy and use of supernatural beings. It is also associated with architecture commonly seen in Europe characterized by flying buttress, gargoyles (grotesques fitted into their nooks), biblical symbols and vaults. Distinct elements of Gothic fiction were ghosts, haunted houses, death, hereditary curses and terror. Gothic literature gained popularity when there was a rise of rationalism over religion and the changing of people’s lifestyle. During the evolution of gothic literature it thus filled a gap due to condemnation of Catholicism (Valdine, 1999).
During this time the society was under pressure to change due to technology involved. It is evident, through the changing roles in women in the society. Through this women are made to choose their own fate. The emergence of divorce comes into play as society accepts it unquestioningly. Women are hence becoming more and more knowledgeable as gothic novels become their pal and writers. Therefore with the gothic situation made women to have voice as women’s deep rooted fears about being powerlessness had since been faded away. Women were thus accepted into the genre which was not far dominated by men and hence used as an avenue to explore women’s power. Notably there are various works of gothic from different writers such as Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey) and Mary Shelley (Frankenstein). They are thus both women who established there works through the genre. In this event women were able to explain the female and male interaction on a female perspective. The position of women was displayed and the inequality in the society shown clearly through this art (Valdine, 1999).
The gothic genre has played a critical role in social progress that is both politically, socially, and in economics structuring. Social progress which is still being realized has been accounted through theories that try to explain this progress in life. During the age of enlightenment reason was advocated for the achievement of lifelong goals. The age has since ended during the French revolution. In the Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey she is observed as a Victorian as she designed the novel during the regency period, that is, during the end of the eighteenth century. Abbey mimicked the gothic genre. Composition of her novels took place before the romantic period. Works produced during this time were known as Neo-Classical which was highly linked to Enlightenment. During this period Europe saw the emergence of novels as a major genre. Austen hence educates women on the essence of life from the novel’s platform. She also promotes writing and embracement of literature works i.e. gothic genre. She mimics Ann Radcliffe’s (Mysteries of Udolpho) her character as Morland is completely not as expected from the gothic point of view. She is in this way seen to be boring and has problems in luring men. Under normal situations she thinks otherwise, supernatural. In this event Austen manages to mimic the genre (Stephen, 2004).
The romantic period saw the bringing forward of strict rules and guidelines. Thus romantic literature featured nature, freedom and exotic. Gothic literature makes romanticism as its peripheral it however, includes elements of fantasy and mystery. This works makes the reader to be placed among the ancient features being depicted hence he/ she becomes a character. It enhances its worth through psychologically involving the reader into examining themselves by employing reflections. Readers are put on the pulpit to make judgment on their own self (Stephen, 2004).
Jane has brought forward gender equality and feminism into the forefront. Through her works lessons of womanly virtue are seen. Women are encouraged to improve on the ever competitive world and play major roles as popular social symbols. Women in this event are taught to be independent and eliminate traces of being second-class citizens. This is through their roles of protecting the males and total obedience. Hence social deviance was from women who are likeable in the public domain rather than within the house. Jane as a feminist had sought to change this situation and bring a wave of feminism in the society. It was during this period that saw the emergence of child daycare, family planning techniques and equal rights with their male counterparts. In addition to this women also engaged in politics and in the media. However through it negative social behavior sprouted, lesbianism came into existence as women tried to be independent. Statistics show that women’s role are ever changing drastically. Women’s roles invade men’s initial roles in society. Some roles such as caring of children, division of household chores and gender related roles i.e. cohabitation and marriage (Honan, 1987).
In her gothic novel Jane Austen focuses on societal issues which since that time have faced vigorous changes. Major issues that she emphasized on were money, marriage, legalities of marriage and its alternatives, place of women in the society, settlement, women and leadership and education. With this in mind very many issues surround it with the involvement of civil rights group the issues are on a cycle of change on the wake of another day.
On the other hand Mary Shelley was a British novelist well known for her work Frankenstein. It has since inspired many in the field of literature. Shelley in her works argued that cooperation and pity that women harbor were the only way for social progress and creation of necessary reforms. She goes further and tries to educate the political forefront not have greed but have the compassionate heart of the female character. She values equality and harmony is the way forwards. In the novel Victor Frankenstein’s setbacks as a parents shows the anxiety of how we should embrace social progress. She thus focuses on the family as the key element in a society. Apart from this she also relays the significant role played by women and their role as women. This impacts to the importance the two which the civil society cannot do without. The novel promotes education and women’s role in the society. It has hence it compels women to be less independent, showing that a man can not have a baby without a woman and vice versa. Therefore when feminist values reign over the violence and destructive men would express a better nature i.e. compassionate, sympathetic and generous (Paula, 1995).
In the novel the protagonist Victor Frankenstein objects traditions and structures his own life. He is hence obliged to live his family in pursuit of his set goals. In Shelley enlightenment idea she saw that individuals could exercise healthy politics to improve the society. However, she also knew that misuse of excessive power would lead to the demise of society. For instance Frankenstein reads books that majorly deal with fundamental visionaries but this does not bring any impact on his life. Humanity could be perfected through good societal ethics if practiced. Through Frankenstein she shows revolution aging and rejection of romanticism and enlightenment visions which could be an alternative. Shelley therefore, portrays the reader as the decision maker who owns assumption at the end of the perusal. Frankenstein sees creation of life from corpses is wise. His main aim is to help mankind to overcome death and diseases. However at the end of his pursuit he realizes that he has far created an ugly monster. He abandons what he has created. Victor’s attitude dramatically changes characterized by living his friends and sudden change of behavior. Shelley hence criticizes his ambition and responsibility rather than his creation works. He thus appeals to everyone for avoiding the careless use of science. In this sense Victor plays the role of scientist, whom from their works intends to be popular, this will dehumanize the society (Paula, 1995).
In a different perspective Victor Frankenstein is compared to Prometheus who in mythology (Greek and Roman) he creates mankind similar to the likeness of God. He then takes the precious fire and gives it to mankind without any consent. Afterwards he faces Zeus wrath by being chained and his liver fed to the eagle. Therefore, this depicts someone who emerges above all forms of authority. Prometheus rose above gods by doing this. Here, Frankenstein is a rebel whereby he rebel against nature by trying to cheat death. Frankenstein as a result is romantic promethean hero by failing in his ventures, creation of human through corpses. His attempt to help man fails (Chris, 1990).
Theory such as the feminist theory postulates that Victor is a sinner. He sins against God and nature. Apart from being sinful it is demeans women as the centre of natural procreation. The creation destroys the feminist ethic as the monster is as a result of a mysterious act, gothic in nature. Eventually women become less vital to the existence of humans. The man who is the centre of power deprives women the chance to procreate who without her existence life does not exist then. The creation of perfect beings through cloning borrowed ideas from this. Victor in his conscious nature realized he had committed a crime against females which is evident in his dream. Before the creation of the monster he killed his mother and girlfriend. Further he does not take responsibility as a father and abandons his “child” after its birth and leaves it under its mother’s care. At the end Victor feels deeply committed he expressed it in rather a strange way. He gives up the creation of a perfect being however his hopes does not fade away because he thinks someone else will continue from where he stopped. It thus fully shows that Shelley did not condemn science but contrary forbid the careless use of science (Chris, 1990).
A different face of the monster is shown when he saves a little child and helps De Lacey family. It also apart from that learns read and talk though his scary appearance. After being rejected several times he develops dislike on his creator and all humans. If the society had welcomed the monster it could have been otherwise. Mankind is to blame for not accepting the monster into their system with its outstanding physic and power. She further emphasizes that the impact of the life of human beings are as a result of social environment. The things we do and what affects us is all about nature, suggesting that wickedness comes with ill treatment. The risks posed to humans do not actually germinate from science but from the society in which we live in. From that extent Frankenstein words become clear that someone else should go on with his experiment and eliminate the defects of the monster he had initially created. Through this he wanted the creature at the end to be accepted into the society, perfect human (Susan, 2007).
Other critics view Frankenstein in more a different way i.e. ill criticism to religion. They view the creation of the being as commitment of sin against God. Thus his materials (corpses) are generated from social unrest during that time. It witnessed that scientist would only work to the satisfaction of mankind without restricting themselves to church values and ethics. Shelley agrees to this notion in “The necessity of Atheism” where God is put to question for lack of valid evidence of his existence. Hence Victor is not a qualified surgeon making sense why he cannot create a being (Susan, 2007).
However, Mary’s main goal was to write a gothic fiction book, obtaining her idea from her hideous progeny inspired by a French translator. This contradicts with the book as gothic genre is characterized by supernatural beings, which is not depicted in the novel. Instead of the scary stylistic features she uses normal beings and natural scientific events. The perfectly evil and the good deeds are not completely noticed as use in gothic. It hence shows the development of the monster from it tender age to an adult. The setting of the story is in the 18th century rather than 15th as most gothic novels and is set on a Romanticism context (Susan, 2007).
The novel is based on scientific ideas. Victor could in this way be a trigger to science fiction novel and promoter of social progress. In the recent years there emerged the test-tube babies which clearly show the borrowing of ideas from the monster creation. Besides test-tube babies we also have the creation of robots. Perhaps a more perfect idea is organ transplant which has so far made tremendous change in people’s life. The novel is seen as a symbol of changing times where modernization is rapidly encroaching. The social life of many societies observed changes both in nature and science. The monster is hence a foundation of ever improving technology from its toddler stage to full maturity. In today’s world science plays a very critical role eating a humble pie from the gothic genre and its core founders. It is much clear that science has brought an understanding of the past, present and future and it is ever in a constant loop. Scientific progress should credit the establishment of the gothic genre. Social life is improving day by day by creating a more comprehensive idea of human philosophy (David, 1998).
Impact of Gothic Genre
The gothic genre has hence improved social life but not acted as a reaction to it. However, it has very minute incidence of reactions to Enlightenment ideals of reason, harmony and social progress. Such incidences include: women’s position in the society is natural and are a symbol of natural procreation. The male partner cannot exist independently as a unit but will need assistance from the woman. This shows that society without the interaction of beings it is bound to fail in its existence. We have also witnessed that nature puts women into their position as the caretaker of the male while obeying him. However much we try to oppose it through change of roles it still remains natural and one cannot distort nature’s dramas. Perfection is not for man but for God as it is seen that as far as many tries to discover scientific projects perfection cannot be fully be reached. The monster in Frankenstein’s creation shows this (Fergus, 1991).
The gothic genre is hence a calling for women to wake up. Social progress will be evidence through this as gothic ideas were seed to some scientific discoveries. We should in this way embrace the gothic genre and credit it for its eye opening. Society has then seen equality and progression through attainment of knowledge.