The Gothic genre became popular in the mid-eighteeth centuary when 'The Castle of Otranto' by Horace Warpole was written. Emily Bronte was influence by 'The Bridegroom of Barna', published in the nineteenth centuary when writing 'Wuthering Heights'. Today, the equivalent of the Gothic novel a horror novel by writers such as Steven King. "The Woman in Black' is a modern novel with Gothic influences. The main features of the Gothic novels were the main character, usually an anti hero: dark, demonic and motivated by inhuman cruelty. This man usually had mysterious origins and did not value many of society's morals.
Later, in the nineteenth centuary when the Romantic movement developed, the Gothic anti-hero became the Byronic hero in many novels. Like the Gothic protagonist, the Byronic hero usually had a mysterious past, as well as dark, good looks and a hatred for society's moral laws. Heathcliff, in Emily Bronte's novel 'Wuthering Heights', is a good example of a Byronic hero. Another important feature of many Gothic novels is the setting. Gothic novels are usually set in a grim, hostile landscape often on a deserted moor or marsh, as in the case of 'Wuthering Heights' and Susan Hill's 'The Woman in Black'.
Such grim landscape often mirrors the character of the hero. There are also references to the supernatural in many of these novels, such as the ghost of Jennet Humfrye in 'The Woman in Black' or the ghost of Cathy in 'Wuthering Heights'. There is also a strong supernatural element in these stories often linked to the main character. Revenge is usually a strong theme in Gothic novels. The anti hero often seeks revenge against the people around him, perhaps because of some earlier wrong he was the victim of or simply against society in general, because of the alienation he feels he has suffered.
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For example, in 'Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff revenges himself against Hindley's son Hareton because of the pain Hindley caused him when he was alive. Other features of Gothic novels include the presence of an ancient retainer, usually an old man. There is also usually a victim, often a fair haired young woman. She is supposed to represent good and the moral values which the anti hero is trying so hard to destroy. The idea of a Gothic anti hero is particular prominent in 'Wuthering Heights'.
In this book the main character is Heathcliff, an orphan who is brought to Wuthering Heights by the old Mr Earnshaw in his childhood. Like most Gothic heroes, Heathcliff has dark, good looks, a mysterious past and an unquenchable desire to revenge himself on the people he feels have wronged him. The story of 'Wuthering Heights' revolves around Heathcliff's life and his relationship with his 'soul-mate' Cathy. Heathcliff's looks, and in particular his eyes are described by the housekeeper and narrator Nelly as "that couple of black fiends, so deeply buried, who never open their windows boldly".
Later in the book Heathcliff is contrasted with Cathy's future husband Edgar Linton: "The contrast resembled what you see in exchanging a bleak, hilly, coal country for a beautiful, fertile valley". This description not only describes Heathcliff's looks but also his charater, bleak suggesting his personality and "hilly" describing the mood swings he has. Heathcliff's desire for revenge against Edgar Linton, Hindley Earnshaw and, to a certain extent, Cathy, is shown by his actions during the novel. He abuses Hindley's son Hareton, as well as Edgar's sister Isabella and his daughter Catherine.
In contrast to 'Wuthering Heights', 'The Woman in Black' does not have a clear anti hero. Instead there are two characters who share this role. They are Arthur Kipps and the woman in black, Jennet Humfrye. Kipps is not the traditional Gothic hero because he does not have dark, good looks or a mysterious past. Instead, he is more like Lockwood or Edgar Linton in 'Wuthering Heights'. The other main character shares some of the traits of the revenger and the victim in many Gothic novels. Jennet Humfrye is a ghost who had lost a child she had out of wedlock and died of a wasting disease.
She is now revenging herself on innocent victims. Whilst the idea of revenge is similar to the Gothic hero, Humfrye is a very different character because she is dead and also a woman. She is also not a traditional Gothic victim, because despite being female she has a wasting disease and therefore isn't beautiful. She also does not embody the positives of society, such as chastity until marriage that most Gothic victims do. The setting and atmosphere in 'Wuthering Heights' and 'The Woman in Black' is also an important feature of both novels.
The setting is one of biggest similarities between the two books as both are set in grim, inhospitable landscapes- 'Wuthering Heights' on the Yorkshire Moors and 'The Woman in Black' on a bleak marshland. Another similarity is the houses where the two novels are set: Wuthering Heights and Eel Marsh House. Both houses are bleak and very isolated. Arthur Kipps first describes Eel Marsh House as "a tall, gaunt house of grey stone". There is a lot of adverse weather such as storms in both books. This echoes the personalities of the main characters and also helps to add even more tension and atmosphere to the plot.
For example in 'The Woman in Black', when Kipps discovers the nursery has been wrecked, there is a storm going on outside. He is unsure whether the nursery has been damaged by the storm or whether Jennet Humfrye has been there. The intrusion of the supernatural features in both novels. In 'Wuthering Heights', it occurs at the beginning and at the end of the book, where Lockwood and then Heathcliff encounter the ghost of Cathy. 'The Woman in Black' is basically a ghost story and therefore the intrusion of the supernatural is a major part of the plot.
In both books there is confusion between reality and the supernatural. In 'Wuthering Heights' this occurs when Lockwood encounters Cathy's ghost. It is quite clear to the reader that Cathy's ghost did actually appear but Lockwood manages to convince himself that he was dreaming, overlooking the broken window and the fact that he never went to sleep. In 'The Woman in Black', Arthur Kipps is very sceptical about the existence of the woman in black to begin with and does not recognise the ghost when he first encounters her, describing her as "another mourner, a woman".
There are, however, clues that the woman is a ghost, just like in Wuthering Heights. She is dressed in a very old fashioned dress and disappears very suddenly. I think elements of the Gothic genre are used very effectively in both 'The Woman in Black' and 'Wuthering Heights', especially since neither novel is specifically a Gothic novel. I think that the theme of revenge is most prominent in 'Wuthering Heights' because it is the driving force behind the passion of Heathcliff's character.
I think the setting of the story is used to great effect in 'The Woman in Black' because the adverse weather and desolate marsh add a lot of atmosphere and tension to the plot. I personally prefer 'Wuthering Heights' because I feel that Emily Bronte has managed to create characters with great depth and has managed to effectively portray the passion between Heathcliff and Cathy. Also, whilst 'Wuthering Heights' does have Gothic features to it, Bronte does not let them compromise the storyline in any way.
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