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The Conventions of a Gothic Novel: Research Report

The Gothic genre has been around for many years, beginning in 1764. Horace Walpole, an important figure for the eighteenth century, is best known as the first author to write a Gothic Novel. Walpole was also responsible for many other things such as, the first Gothic drama. Since then, many authors have also made a name for themselves in the Gothic genre. Others who have made an impact are Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ann Radcliffe. Author, Ann Radcliffe, writes within a sub-genre in the Gothic genre such as, Female Gothic and Romantic Gothic. Many sub-genres exist within Gothic: Female Gothic, Contemporary Gothic, Gothic Drama, Gothic Romance, etc. Each genre and sub-genre has certain conventions that can be found throughout novels of the same genre. In the Gothic genre, some of the conventions that are shared between novels include: there is a young woman, whose mother is usually a widow, who flees her home, a Gothic villain who has power over his subjects, and a male in the story (on his search for authority and power) who often entraps the heroine and her days become threatened by death or rape. All three of these conventions are shown in “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys.

In “The Handbook to Gothic Literature,” Alison Milbank explains one of the conventions seen in a Gothic novel, “a young woman, often a governess to a widower’s child, flees his house and his supposed evil designs.” This convention is present in “Wide Sargasso Sea” as Antoinette, a young woman, has the desire to flee her home; the home of Mr. Mason and her mother, Annette. After a house fire, as the last few people escape, Antoinette thinks to herself, “I will live with Tia and I will be like her. Not to leave Coulibri. Not to go. Not.” (Rhys, Jean 23). Antoinette is the young woman seen in the convention who wants to flee her home and the supposed evils: Mr. Mason. She wants to live with her childhood friend, Tia, so that...
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