Context in The Woman in Black

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  • Context in The Woman in  Black
    • Ghosts and Witches
      • Witches
        • Women who were considered troublesome or undesirable were put down as 'witches'
        • Drought, famine and unexpected death were occurrences that people blamed 'witches' for
        • The more that people started to understand things on a scientific level, the less supernatural they became.
          • The less likely you were to hear accusations of witchcraft
        • During the Victorian era and afterwards, there are much fewer recorded accounts of witch trials and accusations in the civilised world
      • Ghosts
        • Became more common in the Victorian era
          • Education and changed social structures did little to affect the belief in ghosts
          • Spiritualism endorsed the ghost
            • So the ghost continued to be "real"
        • Sought to answer questions about death and the afterlife
          • The ghost could be found through spiritualism
            • Spiritualism endorsed the ghost
              • So the ghost continued to be "real"
        • Became less plausible after the Great War
          • There was a diminishing influence of the spiritualist movement
          • But the ghost story still continues to have a lively tradition
    • Gothic Genre
      • Broadly refers to stories that combine elements from horror and romanticism
      • Often deals with...
        • supernatural events
        • events occurring in nature that cannot be easily explained
          • Or over which man has no control
      • Typically follows a plot of suspense and mystery
      • Common elements found in Gothic novels
        • Gloomy, decaying setting
          • haunted houses
          • castles
          • Secret passages, trap doors and other mysterious architechture
        • Poor weather
          • use of pathetic fallacy
          • darkness
          • thunderstorm
        • Supernatural beings or monsters
          • ghosts
          • vampires
          • zombies
          • giants
        • Curses or prophecies
        • Damsels in distress
        • Heroes
        • Romance and intense emotions
      • Arose partly because the 18th and 19th centuries were a time of great discovery and exploration
        • In the fields of science, religion and industry
        • Some people began to question the existence of God or a higher power
          • Darwin's "The Origins of the Species"
      • 19th century doctors only just beginning to understand the condition of madness
        • Used to increase suspense
        • Used to explore aspects of human nature which cannot be easily understood or explained
        • Women could find themselves labelled insane and locked up in madhouses for a range of conditions
          • Alcoholism
          • postnatal depression
          • senile dementia
          • even for infidelity, viewed as "moral insanity"
        • Mad people are deemed to have severed their connections with society
    • Victorian Attitudes
      • Women
        • If a girl became pregnant outside of marriage...
          • Sent away to relatives to give birth and returns afterwards
            • Reduced scandal in the local community
          • Child would be put up for adoption
          • Girl's likelihood of getting married drastically reduced
            • No longer a virgin
          • Classed by some as wicked or terminally ill
            • On occasion they were committed to asylums due to the shame they brought upon their family
              • Sex outside of marriage was shameful and unnacceptable
                • No reliable form of contraception until the pill in the 1960s
        • 'Blue-stockings' considered unfeminine and off-putting
          • Attempted to rival men's 'natural' intellectual superiority
          • An educated and intelligent woman
          • Some doctors reported that too much study had a damaging effect on the ovaries
            • Supposedly would turn attractive young women into dried up prunes
          • When Oxbridge first opened their doors to women, many families refused to let their clever daughters attend for fear it would make them unmarriageable
        • Assumed to desire marriage because it allowed them to become mothers
          • Not for emotional or sexual satisfaction
            • Had no choice but to remain a virgin until marriage
              • No longer a virgin
              • Not even allowed to speak to men unless there was a married woman present as a chaperone
              • Many men found prostitutes
                • Double standards
                • Venereal disease (STDs) was rife so sometimes passed syphilis onto their wives
          • Victorian society placed much more importance on motherhood than our contemporary society does
            • Untitled
      • Religion
        • Strict Christian moral code
          • Sex outside of marriage was shameful and unnacceptable
            • No reliable form of contraception until the pill in the 1960s
      • Law
        • Abortion against the law until the late 1960s
          • Strict Christian moral code
            • Life threatening risk of back street or illegal abortions
          • In England, there were no laws concerning adoption until the 1920s
            • Most adoption was informal
        • Children
          • Illegitimate children had no inheritance rights and were deemed "second class"
            • For some it was a social stigma that they carried throughout life
          • Children adopted by own social class usually treated fairly and equally
          • If adopted by a family whose class was above and beyond their original class, they were frequently mistreated and neglected
          • Children from different social classes were not encouraged to fraternise
            • If taken into a household where higher class children lived, they could be forbidden to even speak to them

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