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Role Of Women In Gothic Literature English Essay

3873 words - 16 pages

“The role of Women in Gothic Genre is as victims, always subject to male authority.”
Gothic literature is centred around novels that intertwine horror, romantic tragedy and mystery. It began mid-18th century and has since then gained immense popularity blending realistic characters with supernatural elements. Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ and works from Coleridge such as ‘Christabel’ and ‘The Ancient Mariner’ are examples of Gothic literature that emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The gothic genre during this period introduced the establishment of women as a ‘damsel in distress’, subject to male authority and social demands; this is apparent in Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ as the Count victimises women to defeat his male opponents and the three female vampires are brought to an untimely end by male figures. In Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ Catherine and Cathy are victims to social demands and entrapment by the male antagonists and in Coleridge’s work Christabel is victimised by a supernatural figure in the poem, unable to save her father from Geraldine’s seduction. It can be argued that Stoker and Coleridge criticise the portrayal of strong women as all female predators in their work are displayed in a negative light, holding unfavourable characteristics, particularly shown through their sexuality and the signs of affection displayed. They describe the female’s death as gruesome and inevitable. It can be argued that gothic authors also portray some female characters within their work as independent and powerful. ‘Dracula’ and ‘Christabel’ deviate from the stereotypical female ‘victim’ using women as predators, posing a threat to other characters, and very often males; for example in ‘Dracula’ Jonathan Harker is seduced by Dracula’s three female vampires. With relation to context, female independence and sexuality was a subject often debated and frowned upon by society; Stoker, Coleridge and Bronte partially challenge these ideas and the representation of women - whilst considering some females as victims to the adverse events occurring in the story. However are they portrayed as powerful and a challenge to the patriarchal social system or are they victims subject to male authority?
A debate in the 19th Century concerning the emergence of women as strong, educated characters and reflecting writers beliefs that female characters can overpower dominant males became known within Gothic literature as the “New Woman”. It depicts females to pose a potential threat to the male characters and their supremacy blurring predators and victims together. Greg Buzwell suggests “the most radical and far-reaching change of all concerned the role of women, and the increasing number of opportunities becoming available to them in a male-dominated world.”[footnoteRef:2] This is particularly evident in ‘Dracula’ as Mina represents the image of the “New Woman”. The structure of Stoker’s novel allows her to illustrate her thoughts in...

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