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Women in the Gothic are often presented as one-dimensional as either the virgin or the temptress. How far do you agree with this assessment of the female characters in the Gothic texts that you have studied?

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Introduction

"WOMEN IN THE GOTHIC ARE OFTEN PRESENTED AS ONE-DIMENSIONAL - AS EITHER THE VIRGIN OR THE TEMPTRESS." HOW FAR DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS ASSESSMENT OF THE FEMALE CHARACTERS IN THE GOTHIC TEXTS THAT YOU HAVE STUDIED? The role of women in Gothic texts is often reduced to two stereotypes: one is the virginal maiden, vulnerable and innocent, waiting for a man to save her; the other is the temptress, the strong, dangerous predator who is beyond male control. Such is the case in many Gothic texts, including the seminal work 'Dracula'. While this is the case in Milton's 'Paradise Lost', in Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber' and Webster's 'The White Devil' it is not always possible to classify women in such a clear way. The females in both texts are rarely one-dimensional, and if they ever are (as they occasionally are in Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber') they are made so consciously in order to contribute to a pointedly more complex destination. There are very few females in Books I and II of Milton's epic poem 'Paradise Lost'. Of course, Eve is alluded to in passing ("... say first what cause/Moved our great parents in that happy state/... ...read more.

Middle

These characters are neither 'virgins' nor 'temptresses', and are certainly not one-dimensional or predictable. Virginal characters that appear in the collection include the helpless narrator of 'The Bloody Chamber', who lacks the independence to break free of the rules imposed upon her by the very man who she knows means to kill her, and the unequivocally bland and material Beauty of 'The Courtship of Mr Lyon', which is often cited as the weakest story in the collection for its conventional style. However, in these cases, Carter's inclusion of these female stereotypes serves only to emphasise the progressive nature of the mother in 'The Bloody Chamber' and the Beauty in 'The Tiger's Bride'. The girl in 'The Bloody Chamber', the Marquis' "lamb chop", his "bargain", his "virgin of the arpeggios", is so weak that she serves to make the headstrong ferocity of her mother all the more pronounced. In a similar way, the determined individuality of the Beauty in 'The Tiger's Bride' is made all the more prominent by the conventional and insipid Beauty of 'The Courtship of Mr Lyon'. These unconventional women contribute to Carter's challenging of gender boundaries, which forms the ultimate destination of the collection. ...read more.

Conclusion

Regardless of the fact that Vittoria's duplicity is more the product of Flamineo's will than her own, her two-facedness nonetheless shows a complexity and development in character which surpasses the simplicity of the labels of 'temptress' and 'virgin'. These complex amalgams contribute to the centrality of the Machiavellian mentalities in the play, and show that the statements in the title are not always true. In their own ways, then, all of the Gothic texts in question disprove the view proffered. Sin in 'Paradise Lost' is not "either the virgin or the temptress"; she is a (barely developed, admittedly) combination of the two stereotypes - not quite one-dimensional, then, but very close. Carter incorporates fairly one-dimensional only to highlight the unconventional and complex women they interact with or are set against. The women in 'The White Devil' combine the stereotypes as Sin does, rebutting the view in the title, but goes further by making the women conscious of their dichotomy, as they play to both stereotypes to achieve covered motives. Isabella and Vittoria act as they must in order to serve their own ends, and as such cannot be labelled as 'one-dimensional': if any such label must be affixed to their characters, "Machiavellian" would be a much better fit. All three texts, then, challenge the given view. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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