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The Well - Gothic Horror by Elizabeth Jolley.

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Introduction

The Well - Gothic Horror The Well written by the talented Western Australian writer, Elizabeth Jolley is a suspenseful and chilling novel comprising elements of the Gothic genre. It centralizes on Herster Haper the eccentric, crippled and surrogate mother to Katherine, an unwanted child who together commit a crime. Adding to this psychological thriller is the apparent mystery body down the well. Gothic novels are horror stories of a more or less macabre nature exploring the darker side of life. They are tales of the supernatural, the paranormal, and set among isolated, haunted landscapes. They are characterised by marginalised lonely people and involves unknown origins. The fragmented narrative structure of the Well, wherethe author's omniscient voice regular intrudes, is abundant in silences, ambiguities, and surprises, a characteristic feature of Jolley's fictions and a key element of a gothic genre. One morning when birds were echoing across the paddocks...Mr Harper having unsuccessfully made a partial change over to beef died. It is these sentences that causes the reader to feel bewildered by the inappropriateness of the information to which the sentence actually leads. The sentence starts with a lyrical description of nature but has little to do with the tragic event of Mr Harper's death. The flash backs, a suspense-creating device is purposely utilised in the novel to stimulate the element of paranoia. ...read more.

Middle

Furthermore in the novel Jolley has cleverly used the well to symbolise access of the imagination. It is near the well where Hester and Katherine imagines the future by peopling the well with trolls, imprisoned princesses, a handsome prince and finally the 'intruder.' "To amuse themselves they pretended that someone lived in the well. A troll with horrible anti-special habits...an imprisoned princess...prince on a white horse. The trolls are a connotation of the gothic genre as they are mystical creatures and have characteristics of the paranormal. The apparent intruder in the well is according to Katherine named Jacob and he therefore evokes another ambiguous intertwining of the bible and the gothic genre. This because in the Bible Jacob had 12 sons and one daughter his favourite being Joseph. When Joseph was 17 he was given a fine coat from his father, indicating that he was of better things. His brothers' jealousy soon changed to hatred and eventually they decided to slay Joseph by heaving him down a well. Characterisation of Hester and Katherine further creates the suspense and thriller evident in the novel. Hester Harper is the typical character of a gothic novel as she is a lonely spinster marginalised by society because of her crippled leg. It was her loneliness, lack of love and need for companionship that made her bring Katherine home. ...read more.

Conclusion

The questioning and suspicion gets even stronger when readers learn about "Katherine's ability and willingness in the household" and that "there was nothing Katherine could not copy or learn." It is very unusual for a youth to be willing to stay at home and doing house chores unless they are endeavouring to achieve something. These is also Katherine's constant pampering of Hester "Katherine ...knowing Hester's weakness for sweet things...I thought you'd like the sherry trifle.. To further emphasise the foundling is how there is so little mention of Katherine's past and the orphanage except for Katherine complaints. By this readers are reminded that Katherine's past and true identity are still not revealed thus creating a mysterious, suspenseful and gothic atmosphere However what further develops the gothic character of Katherine are her visions of the person in well. Readers are never told whether it was Katherine who stole the money or whether the man in the well was superficial. It is the unknowing of the truth, the unanswered questions and Katherine's unknown identity that makes The Well such a psychological thriller. Elizabeth Jolley's novel The Well takes readers through events that are surprising and grisly and then an ending, which is left deliberately ambiguous. Set in an isolated rural countryside populated by the marginalised character, Hester Harper, the foundling, Katherine, the mythical character, the Troll, and surrounded by the elements of the paranormal. The gothic genre has proved to be influential in the psychological thriller, The Well. ...read more.

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