Women as Victims Essay

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There are two main female roles within Gothic literature; the ‘predator’ and the ‘victim’. The first is dangerous yet powerfully attractive; she helps portray the pain/pleasure paradox that has come to be synonymous with Gothic literature. The latter is fragile and vulnerable, she gives the heroes something to rescue, and is often the prize for their brave endeavours. Occasionally, however, Gothic writers seem to blur the lines between these stereotypical characters in order to add depth, uncertainty and suspense. This is particularly clear in Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’ in which we would expect the jealous Countess to be the predator and the child to be the victim. The view presented to us of the Snow Child and the Countess, however, lies within the reader’s interpretation of the story. It depends on where our sympathies lie as to whether we see the Countess as the victim as her husband replaces her with a ‘newer model’, or we see the girl as the victim, created as both an object of the Count’s lust and the Countess’s hatred. The Countess’s jealousy is made clear from the moment the girl arrives in the blunt declarative ‘the Countess hated her.’ This could stem from the fact that the count had ‘fathered’ a child, yet she was not the mother. Where the child is often described in terms of her sexual maturity, the Countess is described using the bilabial alliterative ‘bare bough’ and the simile ‘bare as a bone’. This could be seen to reflect the Countess’s infertility that has come with age, and may explain her hatred towards the young and fertile girl. This presents women in an extremely negative light, adhering to the stereotype that all women are threatened by those younger and more beautiful than themselves. This idea, of characters breaking out of their stereotypes, can also be seen through the role of ‘Isabella’ in Keats’ ‘Isabella and the Pot of Basil’.
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