English Literature - crossing boundaries in the Gothic

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“Much Gothic writing is preoccupied with the punishment of transgression.” By comparing Frankenstein with at least one other Gothic work you have studied, discuss ways in which writers of the Gothic tradition explore the consequences of crossing boundaries

From the outset, it is very pertinent to note the use of the word ‘consequences’ in this question. Indeed, ‘crossing boundaries’ can be perfectly benign and harmless. Also worth considering is the fact that ‘crossing boundaries’ can either be treated in a geographical (and literal) sense – simply a person or object moving from one designated area to another – (e.g. Walton’s expedition to the Arctic) or, instead, as a personal ‘crossing’ of a figurative ‘boundary’ (e.g. the Creature’s negative change in attitude towards the world).

Let us first look at this point of emotional shifts. With regards to ‘consequence’ Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1831) offers a strong insight of the Creature’s descent into “malignity” (this word is interestingly repeated throughout the text). The Creature ‘crosses’ this theoretical introspective ‘boundary’ essentially as a result of social exclusion. Yet, it is not simply emotional ‘punishment’ for the Creature per se. Victor also feels the effects of the Creature’s decline having provided the impetus behind his animosity and ‘malignant’ mindset. Victor feels equally culpable for the deaths of those who are close to him – Elizabeth, William, Justine, Henry etc. He symbolically ‘aborts’ his Creature by effectively ‘casting him aside’. Victor giving life, of course, can obviously be linked to the idea that Victor succeeds in usurping the role of the mother (one might treat this as ‘transgression’ – “to go beyond or overstep” the “limit”1 of gender role). Furthermore, what this reciprocated ‘punishment’ also offers us is support for the notion that the two characters are in fact the same person (it has frequently been suggested that the Creature maintains the role of a double – or doppelgänger – to Victor).

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Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) as well offers fertile ground for this essay. The men of the novel do also ‘cross’ a metaphorical emotional ‘boundary’ in the final chapters of the text. It is a poignantly-governed change, essentially being brought upon them as a consequence of the horrific transformation (indeed ‘transgression’) of Lucy Westenra into an un-Dead. Of course, this is combined with an apparent requirement to put an end to Count Dracula’s malice regardless. This, then, leads us onto the notion of ‘crossing’ literal geographical ‘boundaries’. The men are required to travel from West to East. This issue is touched ...

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