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Chapter 1:- ...

The fantastic landscapes of the Gothic novel provide places where good and evil collide. In several famous works, good and evil are represented by pairs of inextricably linked characters. For example, Dracula and Van Helsing, Dorian Gray and his picture in the attic, or in the case of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, the conflicting opposites are contained within the frame of a single person. A recent instance of the latter is the character of Angel/Angelus, in TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer


The contradictory forces represent emotion fighting against reason. In Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, it is sensuality which leads to depravity. While the portrait in the attic can, in a certain light, be considered as another version of Mister Rochester’s mad wife, from Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”


In Gothic tales, characters find that circumstances cannot be escaped, while all efforts to change those circumstances simply tighten the (narrative) knots that bind them.


The Gothic city is an evil place of our own construction, where the streets allow the animal/monster within us to once more take the ascendancy. This is a fear that lurks at the back of the mind for both author and reader alike. It could well have taken root in turn of the twentieth century Gothic literature, because of the then-current notorious Jack the Ripper murders.


Castle Elsinore and its environs are not only intrinsically Gothic, but could also be said to engender a melancholic state of mind. In this setting, Hamlet attempts to seek revenge on his uncle for the murder of his father, the king. But he mistakenly kills a councilor of state, who was eavesdropping on him. The son of the councilor of state in turns seeks revenge on Hamlet.


So Hamlet embodies both the duality and the dramatic potential of good and evil. Dressed in black, his reluctance to act perhaps comes from living in a world where evil has usurped power.


Would you accept an example from sci-fi (because, arguably, gothic is a frame of mind)? If so, there is HG Wells’ “The Time Machine”. Here, the human race itself has been divided into the good, childlike, ineffectual Eloi, who live in domes above ground, and the evil, knowing, skilled Morlock’s, who dwell below the surface and maintain the hidden machinery of a terrible future. They are predator and prey who have evolved from a single common source – dual natured, modern humanity.


“The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner”, by James Hogg, contains one of the first instances of a doppelgänger. It is a gloomy work, interspersed with black humor, and the story has stood up very well over the years: “To the wicked, all things are wicked; but to the just, all things are just and right... How delightful to think that a justified person can do no wrong!”


Duality of another type occurs in TV’s Sanctuary. In the series, a single actor plays two totally opposing roles. A hairy Bigfoot, with no name, who has a robust sense of right and wrong. Along with a bald, clean-shaven human, John Druitt, who (according to the series) was responsible for the Jack the Ripper murders. To further accentuate their conflicting natures, the actor is not officially credited for the Bigfoot role. The Gothic sanctuary itself is a stunningly realized CGI creation.


Duality then, in Gothic works, allows us to confront the horrible possibility of what each of us is capable of, if circumstances were different.


Finally, what of the actual Goths, a Teutonic people from southern Sweden (Gotland)? During the 4th Century, when they began to encroach on the Roman Empire, they split into two divisions: the Ostrogoths (bright Goths) and the Visigoths (wise Goths). Somehow, this separation came as no surprise to learn!



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