Gothic Women

In: English and Literature

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“The role of women in the gothic genre is as victims, always subject to male authority.” Compare and contrast the extent to which this interpretation is relevant to your three chosen texts.

“The wolf consumes red riding hood – what else can you expect if you talk to strange men, comments Perrault briskly. Let’s not bother our heads with the mysteries of sadomasochistic attraction” Angela Carter; Foreword to Perrault’s Short Stories.

In much of today’s feminist writings, the Gothic era is frequently defined as a period in which the oppression of females was at its most intense. In response to fin de siècle anxieties of a social revolution in which gender stereotypes could be overhauled, gothic writers, it is claimed, sought to reassert cultural and gender norms – a reassertion which inevitably resulted in the oppression of women. In view of such contemporary analysis, it is thus all too tempting to offer a sweeping judgement of gothic literature as victimising, oppressive and misogynistic; Dracula’s “victims” are all “unambiguously women[1]”, Poe victimises through an “idealised and dehumanising image of women[2]”, while Carter is a “pseudo feminist” who merely “reinforces patriarchal views” with her “pornographic” writing[3]. Yet such views are largely artificial, and are primarily based on potted summaries of the above works, rather than a closer textual analysis. If one takes the definition of a victim as a being who is subject to the successful predatory actions of another, and who is resultantly devoid of power[4], then such primitive analysis in blindly labelling “all women as victims of the beastly male[5]” becomes flawed. Read in the context of Carter’s ironic foreword[6] to Perrault’s Short Stories, a deeper exploration reveals women as being willingly complicit in adopting the role of victim. Such complicity can be further explained through the…...

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