17 Apr 2013

A-Level Analysis Essay Ideas for the Gothic: Angela Carter, Wuthering Heights

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Here some essay titles on the Gothic, for Macbeth, The Bloody Chamber and Wuthering Heights for AQA A-Level Lit B. Here are my thoughts...

First Essay Title:
The Gothic is a male genre which either excludes women or presents them negatively. Discuss.

The first thought that popped into my head was that the three novels studied put women at the centre - far from excluding them. I then wrote an introduction paragraph. It deals with Narrative Structures and POV
Women play a central role in MachbethWuthering Heights and The Bloody Chamber, and are pivotal in the crisis of all these texts, and act as catalysts and even as main point of view characters whose psychological worlds we inhabit. Angela Carter retells the stories of the La Belle et la Bete, in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ shifting from the traditional omniscient detached style of of her folk tale sources into first person and close-focus third narratives, which priorities the entirely female main characters. In Macbeth, unusually, Lady Macbeth is given long soliloquies, and the troubling power-dynamic of her relationship with Macbeth is one of the major themes of the play. These women are far from excluded.

The Gothic is traditionally a stage for stereotypes, however, in its later incarnations, as in Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’, it is ‘challenging conventional gender boundaries’, (David Punter, The Gothic, 2003).

This was as much as I wrote for the first title. I then went onto a second title:

The Second Essay Title
‘A sensational and shocking genre.’ How far would you agree with this assessment of the Gothic genre?

David Punter defines the Gothic genre as ‘chaotic’, one of ‘ornate and convoluted’ ‘excess and exaggeration’ which ‘constantly tended to overflow cultural boundaries’ (The Gothic, Punter, 2003). Yet, in the brilliant colours of suffering, fearful passions, desire and despair, Gothic writers show us a level of psychological truth that is far from frivolous. It is the presentation of naked emotions, to which we are all subject that is most shocking. These emotions are mixed with hugely sensational elements; the supernatural, monsters and violence.

Some random thoughts...
Macbeth
In Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare shows the unspeakable - the male taboo that women can be powerful, which is shocking not because it is melodramatic or hyperbolic, but because it taps into a deep, real fear...

The Bloody Chamber
Angela Carter strips bare the lies of desire and male-female power relations, desire and the bestiality of human sexuality. Helen Simpson writes that Carter extracts the ‘latent content’ of folk stories. Yet these stories are not fictions, they are deep, psychological truths about the ‘imagery of the unconscious’, of everyday experience presented in more glitteringly truthful form. Desire as a theme: what’s shocking is the way Carter transforms traditional images of women as innocent victims of (conventionally male desire) into physical, lustful creatures, with empowering views of female sexuality. Culturally, we demand morals from folk tales: Carter strips it out, leaving us only the shocking truth that often, people do get away with murder (The Werewolf.)

Wuthering Heights
In Wuthering Heights, the protagonists are clearly punished. Though Cathy’s behaviour is sensational and shocking, she isn’t allowed to get away with it. The moral of the ending restores social equilibrium. 

In Wuthering Heights, the strongest characters passionately disobey social convention, and what’s more shocking is that Cathy is neither a passive female victim, angel or whore. She’s a rounded character with a tormented soul. Her love is not obviously erotic, or spiritual, or even a marriage of true minds, it just is. It is inexorable; presented as a greater force than God or social convention, which would have been truly shocking to a contemporary audience.