Within the two novels, Bram Stoker and Emily Bronte present men andwomen as gothic victims through their presentation of their characters andtheir use of language.
In the context of the Victorian epoch, in which bothnovels were written and published, the qualities of these characters duringthose periods were seen as preposterous and eccentric; however, from acontemporary standpoint these characters would be viewed differently and to anextent even liked. Within modern perspectives there are more aspects introducedsuch as feminists concepts and an inside view of societal structures. Anexample of this is the infamous Dracula, during the Victorian era he was possiblyviewed as a repulsive man who perverted the laws of nature and societalstructures, whereas now he is adored and seen as being part of society. Whenreferring to Wuthering Heights, men within Wuthering Heights could possibly beseen as gothic victims as they are shown to be exploited by gothic features,for example Heathcliff is a victim due to the sheer obscurity in Heathcliff’sorigin it adds to how he relates to gothic themes which are interpreted by amodern reader; his isolation and mystery.
Also, through the use of women inStoker’s novel he presents how women are inherently villains, this is donethrough the entries of Lucy Westenra and how she was twisted and turned intowhat was thought a figment of nightmares. What’s more, the use of Mina iscrucial as she is continuously presented as a reliable source that is pure likehow women were traditionally expected to be, however she is still preyed uponby Dracula. Whereas Heathcliff is not presented the same way, at the surface abrute but through deeper knowledge we ironically don’t find out through Nellythat Heathcliff had a rather challenging childhood-“a dark-skinned gypsy inaspect”. The use of these two sides of Heathcliff presented by Brontë is usefulin creating a love and hate relationship between the character and the reader,whether he should be deemed as a victim of others and his societal views thathave caused him to be as such or whether he is just insane. However, one couldargue that Heathcliff’s character could be seen as less of a victim; CharlotteBrontë in her preface for her novel she mentions her sisters character anddescribed Heathcliff as, ‘unredeemed; never once swerving in his arrow-straightcourse to perdition’, she sees the Heathcliff as a detestable character and onethat is unimaginable that he has been created due to his lack of humanity.However Heathcliff could also be interpreted that “he is possessed of adetermination, love and power, great desire for individual freedom andundoubted sexual potency which lea to tremendous capacities misdirected andthwarted”.
Due to the transformation of society, such characters that wereoriginally feared and disliked are now loved and are seen to having more thanone side. Therefore, when arguing whether men are more gothic victims thanwomen or inversely, you must account that thecrux of the matter is that attitudes have changed and they must beaccounted when discussing such questions.Within my two novels, Wuthering Heights and Dracula men are presentedas gothic victims; both Stoker and Brontë present men as gothic victims whetherthrough their origin story or their depictions in the novels. Firstly, withWuthering Heights, Brontë presents men within her novel as gothic victimsthrough gothic elements such as the idea of outsiders and curses. Heathcliff isone of the men victims of gothic literature within Emily Bronte’s novel, he ispresented as an outsider as he is neglected due to his social class and hisskin colour-“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff.” Heathcliff is described as being an orphanwho was brought home by Mr Earnshaw from a trip to Liverpool, this meaning thathe had no blood ties to the family but was still within it which could mirrorhis position within society as he has no certain class within society.
Heathcliff is described as an “unreclaimed creature, without refinement,without cultivation” which strongly suggests that he does not belong in or toany social structures; this could be concurrent with the Marxist reading of thenovel from ‘ A Marxist study of the Brontë’s’; in which Terry Eagleton saysthat Heathcliff’s arrival to the house created uncertainty between himself andother remembers of the family such as Hindley, according to Eagleton is due tothe obscurity of Heathcliff’s origin and his ‘lack of social status or clearsocial role’. Furthermore the fact that he is named after a dead elder son ofMr Earnshaw creates more uncertainty of his place within the family and whetherhis role is as a substitute or rather a servant. Brontë’s lack of presentationof Heathcliff’s origins have created him to be a gothic victim as the mysteryaround his place and role in society causes confusion, clearly between thecharacters and also with the reader. This is due to the fact that to aVictorian reader the fact that he has no constraints to any societal constructsmay arouse anticipatory views of him as an outsider and legitimise hisillegitimacy and would be scrutinized for his lack of belonging.
However, to a21st century reader, he wouldn’t be scrutinized but rather givensympathy for his lack belonging and the mystery of his origin, this would bedue to the fact that within our society currently immigrants are not seen asnegatively and if those views were made public the individual or group would belabelled as bigots. Similarly, within Stoker’s novel he also presents Draculaas an outsider which ultimately makes him a victim of gothic. Draculaimmigrated to London, thus he is a pre-disposed outsider as he is not withinhis realm of “Transylvania” and even though he is in Britain he isstill not part of society;” In the library Ifound, to my great delight, a vast number of English books, whole shelves fullof them, and bound volumes of magazines and newspapers.”.
To understandDracula as a gothic victim, we must first separate the actions of Dracula from what those actions represent in relationto the overall view of whom Dracula is, Stoker uses Dracula’s vampirism andhorrific acts as vehicle to highlight the difference between him and the othercharacters within his novel; Dracula is used to create a bodily version ofVictorian fears of outsiders and foreigners, therefore it could perhaps be seenthat Van Helsing and his partners are the attackers and protectors of theVictorian social conventions in which Dracula transgresses as an outsiderrather than the “undead” or supernatural. Ultimately Dracula’s deathcould not be seen as his literal death but rather his rejection from Victoriansociety hence making him the victim of the story and not who we perceive arethe victim due to the fact that he is a vampire. Just like Heathcliff, Draculais typified not only by the characters within the novel but also by us thereaders as we are given at the beginning of the novel are biased idea ofDracula by the villagers as “Satan”, therefore affecting how we mayperceive him on everything he says, “Ilong to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in themidst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, itsdeath, and all that makes it what it is.”. Originally this would be viewedas Dracula insinuating, he wants to be within London in order to feast uponhuman blood without being stopped as in London we are in such a rush; however,if the reader was never aware of what kind of human Dracula is they would justsee it as a person who desires acceptance into a new society due to the factthat; “Well I know that, did I move and speak in your London, none thereare who would not know me for a stranger.
That is not enough for me. Here I amnoble; I am boyar; the common people know me, and I am master.” Showing that hejust desires to fit in and blend in with society and assimilate a new identityas a stranger rather than someone of status in Transylvania.
However, same as Heathcliff socialconventions prevent them from transgressing expectations and becomingassimilated, hence how they are gothic victims; Heathcliffand Dracula are made victims as they threaten societal norms and values and bothauthors, Bronte and Stoker show how society brutally rejects them. Another way Heathcliff is presented as a victim by Brontë is throughthe fact that his skin colour is linked with “something diabolical” for exampleHell; “you must e’en take (Heathcliff) as a gift of God; though it’s as darkalmost as if it came from the devil”, Heathcliff is linked with the devil whichadds some gothic elements to him and reinforces the view of him as a “wickedboy”. This creates Heathcliff as agothic victim as he is being judged and being given a prejudiced label allbased on his skin colour, moreover the fact that his skin colour was linked with something dark and hellish.Closely related with the previous point, due to the fact that he is contrastedwith the theme of hell and darkness, a Victorian reader would be more inclinedto disliking Heathcliff hence making him a victim of something he is not,within the novel the views of the Victorian reader would correspond to thecharacters within the novel as they would see Heathcliff as a villain due tohis uncanny skin tone.
Furthermore, these views would be seen as reasonableduring Victorian times as it pre-equal rights, so by demonising Heathcliff as a’dark little thing’ would have been allowed, however a modern reader would bemore aware of equality and discriminatory language and connotations, hence whythey would see Heathcliff as a gothic victim but also a victim of his time.This meaning that within our 21st century Heathcliff is seen as avictim within the book and also through historical context; however during theVictorian era is perceived to be a perpetrator of the Gothicism. This pointraises the argument whether Heathcliff is a hero or monster. First, it could beargued he is a gothic monster rather than a gothic victim. Cedric Watts arguedthat ‘In Gothic narratives, a central figure is commonly the charismaticvillain’; this description of such a character fit Heathcliff whom is amysterious, saturnine, ruthless, powerful and sexually menacing. Thesuperstitions around Heathcliff within the novel invoke the reader to evendoubt whether he is inhuman, “I have no pity! I have no pity!” or ratherwhether he is “Is he a ghoul or a vampire?” (Comparableto Dracula in Dracula and how the people around his castle are scepticalwhether he was even human or if he a child “of the night” and”witch”) Charlotte Brontë believed about Heathcliff that he’s”a man shape animated by demon life-a ghoul”, thus reinforcing the idea of himbeing a gothic monster as he is connected with being part of the supernatural. A way Stoker associates Dracula withthe notion of gothic victims is through the fact that his “monstrous”capabilities is essentially a curse that he is confined to: “whose bloodflows through these veins,” Dracula is a descendent of Attila the Hun andStoker’s depiction of ‘Vlad Tepes the Impaler,’ therefore within his origin heis pre-disposed associated with violence and suffering.
Moreover, in Victoriansociety blood had a literal but also a metaphorical significance, the idea wasthat blood was associated with a person’s identity, family or race and was tobe protected at all cost: “blood is a precious thing”. The theme ofblood is repeated continuously through the novel, where Dracula is seeminglyattempting to take others blood, insinuating he is trying to usurp theiridentity as he himself is lacking a place in society. (Lost my argument) However, it could also be arguedthat Heathcliff is the Byronic hero therefore reinforcing the idea that he is avictim of gothic as he is isolated, Brontë perhaps done this in order tofurther seclude Heathcliff outside of social conventions.
A Byronic hero; Byron has generally been attributed with ‘inventing’this sub-type of hero of the romanticism, the typical character traits that areexpected from this sort of anti-hero are: treated as an exile, outcast, or outlaw,sophisticated and educated, self-destructive, sexually attractive, ability toadapt, arrogant mysterious, troubled past and breaks social conventions. Thesecharacteristics are exerted by Heathcliff, one could say he is the epitome of aByronic hero; this view is supported by (‘The Examiner’ in 1848). Furthermoredue to the fact that he is eccentric and is able to adapt (as noted by Nelly uponHeathcliff’s arrival after he left the grange, “Is it really you?”) to societyand become something through a mysterious occurrence. Brontë’s adaptation of Heathcliff as a Byronic heroenhances how he is a gothic victim through being an anti-hero, this is due tothe fact that ultimately Heathcliff did have a troubling past even before beingadopted by Mr Earnshaw as during those periods Liverpool industrial life wasdifficult for those without wealth, on top of that he was challenged withtrying to fit into a society which looks down upon him due to his skin tone and”whips” him like an animal. Even though he leaves his new-found prison andreturns a man of wealth and beauty he is still not accepted and his forced intocontinuing being an outsider and dies as still an outsider, he is never giventhe opportunity to become part of the social groups let alone the life he wouldhave wanted with Catherine. These imperfections Heathcliff has according toJohn S. Whitley is that “he is possessed of a determination, love and power,great desire for individual freedom”; which was the role given to him byBrontë.
Thematically similar to Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Stoker’s Dracula iscloaked in mystery and clandestineness, through role as a “feature of theGothic and Byronic Heroes” (Carlson 30). The Count displays numerous traitsthat are typical of the Anti-hero: “pride in his heritage and status, abrooding melancholy, and a hypnotic charm” (Gates 62). Similar to Bronte’sHeathcliff, both are presented to an extent that leaves the reader in awe oftheir illustrations, but both authors leave the crucial details such as originand past as a mystery, however through Van Helsing’s commentary we learn moreof the legend of Dracula against the “Turks” and his other wars. Even though,the Count is a Byronic Hero he is still a victim of his urges, his desire to”sap” the “life-force” from his victims, but the Count is depicted as veryintellectual shown through his vast collection of books and knowledge if it wasnot for the urges he has, he would be the same character as Van Helsing. Thisintroduces the idea of ‘Doppelganger’, originally devised by German authorJean Paul in his novel Siebenkäs and was further popularizedby the short story “Die Doppelgänger” written by Prussian author E.T.
A.Hoffmann in 1821. The fundamental notion of this gothic element, proposes thatthe two characters share common similarities but due to a few intricatespecifics, in this instance both Van Helsing and Count are incrediblyknowledgeable and have such manly aura, however due to their actions they arepitted against each other, therefore making the Count a gothic victim as hisactions are used to determine his identity. Therefore Stoker presents the Count as agothic victim as his actions create a master status that takes over hisidentity and due to the mystery around who he is he is therefore a victim toVictorian mindsets to determine him as something he is not to an extent.
On the other hand, Stoker and Bronte present women as, gothic victimsthrough their battles with societal expectations and men. Bronte presents womenas gothic victims within her novel is how she uses the settings; the Heights,Moors and the Grange as the roots for how the women are made victims, whichcauses their descent into their ill-fated lives, similarly to how Brontëherself grew up in the Yorkshire Moors her whole childhood. The idea ofentrapment of women in the novel may be seen as conveying victimization ofwomen within the novel; this type of entrapment could be seen within the novelas metaphorically like Catherine (Cathy) Linton or physical entrapment likeIsabella after her marriage to Heathcliff. Based on Brontë’s critical view ofthe 19th century conventions around women and how they were typifiedin society to be quiet and internalise their feelings. (Closely links to how inStoker’s novel not only were women given the voice to express their emotionsand thoughts but they were even praised for it, similar to Nelly.) Catherine’s marriage to Edgar is a primeexample of how women had to sacrifice themselves in her case especially herbubbly personality, in order to fit into social conventions, the fact that heractual feelings was that she felt a yearn for Heathcliff (“I amHeathcliff”). However, due to her social responsibility as a woman she wasexpected to marry a rich and a man of high status rather than an illegitimate,coloured man, “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff “.
Brontëmakes her a victim but an example of how social conventions lead to a lack ofliberty and identity within women. Brontë, through the novel reminds the readerthat there are clear boundaries between male and females; although thoseboundaries are not kept rigid through the entirety of the novel, which links tothe gothic element of transgression, which is the violation of societal moralor natural law and societal conventions. Within the novel marriage is aninstrument that forces women to become submissive to their husbands, thereforebecoming victims of the Victorian society. The idea of transgression could beapplied to Catherine’s marriage to Edgar, they are both from two differenttypes of worlds and after the marriage she assimilates his culture and losesher own natural identity and become an “exile, and outcast,” of theGrange. This also could link to the idea of how the settings of”Wuthering heights” is a place secluded from mainstream society, therefore doesnot function like the rest of the 18th century, the location of”Wuthering Height” is secluded and the people within it, Bronte signifies thisthrough the lack of diversity of names within the entire novel. Furthermore thefact that “Wuthering Height” was secluded from mainstream society and wasrather a “dismal spiritual atmosphere”, but somehow able women still fallvictims to social conventions. Hence why the settings could be seen asjuxtaposition due to the fact that “Wuthering Height” should be a place of noformal social conventions but the characters within it still fall victim tothose expectations.
Bronte, implicitly shows how even in remote areas patriarchystill entraps women into social expectations, which is an attack of Victoriansociety and its norms and values it holds towards women. The theme of how womenare presented in Gothic novels and the transgression of those roles arepresented in both “Wuthering Height” and “Dracula”. Where in Bronte’s”Wuthering Height” she depicts Isabella as a victim and a survivor which causeher to fall prey to Heathcliff’s façade as a gentleman, after she realises hermistake: “He’s not ahuman being” and she flees from the abuse of Heathcliff. This here iswhere she transgresses social conventions, during the Victorian era it wouldnot be seen as normal let lone acceptable for a woman to leave her husband evenin the face of domestic violence; Bronte perhaps could be critiquing the lackof women rights during the 19th century, furthermore around the periodBronte wrote her novel was just the start of the women rights movements. Similarly,Stoker also uses the women in his novel to present the ways women are presentedin gothic.
Ultimately,Bronte and Stoker present both men and women as gothic victims, nevertheless itbecomes apparent within my work that women are persecuted more than men ingothic literature, mainly for the fact that women are used commonly betweenboth novels to critique society and the structure of its expectations, whereasmen are simply used to help illustrate the issue. Bram Stoker’s Dracula will beforever one of the most influential Gothic texts of the 19thcentury; due to the epistolary Gothic novel published in 1897. Stoker’s Draculabased on Polidori’s “Vampyre” has helped modernize the concept of vampirism.Vampires have intrigued people for many years and will continue to captivatesociety due to its ability to be adapted in movies such as “Twilight” orFrancis Ford Coopla’s movie; In Stoker’s work the gothic tradition is on fulldisplay especially during the first few chapters where Jonathon Harker travelsto the Counts “vastly ruined” castle and has a rather “grim adventure”. Stoker,draws on the literary traditions define key gothic elements, such as the theme,setting, atmosphere and the characters of his story; which were all critical inthe overall effect of his novel as a gothic literature.
Similar to EmilyBronte’s, Wuthering Heights which was published in 1847 under thepseudonym “Ellis Bell”, will also be very influential, during the 19thcentury it shocked VictorianEngland with its portrayal of unbridled passions. It sold poorly and wasnearly forgotten before being rediscovered after Brontë’s death. It is nowconsidered one of the masterpieces of English literature; Wuthering Heights was influenced by Brontë’s experiences, conventions andculture of her time. In conclusion Emily Bronte’s novel help 19thcentury society to re-evaluate their structures and today is a reminder of howsociety has evolved.