Selah Saterstrom’s The Pink Institution is a novel set in the Deep South following the Civil War. It tells the story of a family over many generations from the point of view of the narrator (who is assumed to be the author of the novel). Saterstrom’s novel is considered to be a historic autobiographical gothic novel. Over the years, this novel has been the topic of many enthusiastic debates over whether the work is actually a novel or even gothic in nature. After reading and analyzing the work at length, there is no doubt that this work illustrates many themes found commonly in gothic literature.
First, it’s important to understand the definition of “gothic literature.” At its most basic ...view middle of the document...
The castles in gothic literature usually come equipped with secret passages. While Saterstrom’s setting does not take place in a castle, it does take place in dilapidated homes and communities of the Deep South as referenced by the passage below:
“Micajah made a loan to Azalea and Willie so they could buy a house adjacent to his property. The house was named Mary’s Dawn. Built in the 1750’s by the first Spanish governor of the Miscopy territory, it was in decline (42).”
A little further in the novel, Saterstrom goes on to describe a neighbor’s home in the following fashion:
“Toomsata had an underground chapel. One night Dunbar took the girls there. Inside were many coffins. Some of the coffin lids were partially off or caving in (57).”
Since settings in gothic literature often take place in areas of decay or great mystery, it would seem that Saterstrom’s novel fits the bill in this regard. The characters live in places of decay and mystery as noted by the aforementioned passages.
Another gothic element is that of supernatural events. These events can be visions, omens, or prophecies (Harris, 2013). As anyone who has read Saterstrom’s novel knows, there are many supernatural events throughout the novel. In fact, one of the main male characters, Willie comes into contact with death more than once. On one occasion he sees Death go into his children’s room, so he follows Death into the room and has a physical altercation with him (Saterstrom, 2004). On another ocassion Willie see’s Death standing on the side of the road as he drives by. Willie sees Death as a physical manifestation whereas the reader knows that Death is a supernatural event that is the product of Willie’s disturbed psyche. Another example of the supernatural in Saterstrom’s work comes when Willie and his family hear a stampede in their living room and come out to find muddy footprints on their living room ceiling. This event isn’t questioned, but is attributed to supernatural entities (Saterstrom, 2004). The supernatural is a recurring theme throughout Saterstrom’s novel, which is just one of the many reasons that it’s considered a piece of gothic literature.
Other themes of gothic literature include...