‘To what extent do you agree that obsession is a significant element in the gothic writing you have studied?’ FRANKENSTEIN AND WUTHERING HEIGHTS GOTHIC ESSAY

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Preview of ‘To what extent do you agree that obsession is a significant element in the gothic writing you have studied?’  FRANKENSTEIN AND WUTHERING HEIGHTS GOTHIC ESSAY

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`To what extent do you agree that obsession is a significant element in the gothic writing you have
studied?' (Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights)
Obsession can be seen as a common element of Gothic literature and may often be interpreted as
the driving force behind the sinister actions of many characters. Obsession highlights an extremity of
human behaviour and suggests a lack of rationality and control, which incites a frightening
unpredictability into the novel. This can particularly be seen within Shelley's Frankenstein, in which
obsession drives Victor's pursuit of the creation of life, and allows power to fall into the wrong
hands, with devastating consequences.
A significant aspect and theme within Frankenstein is the obsessional nature of Frankenstein's aim to
create life and eradicate the inevitability of death: `I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for
this one pursuit'. This statement can act as a symbol of the dissolution of Victor's morality, as the loss
of `soul' and `sensation' depicts how Victor is beginning to lose touch with his humanity. This is further
exemplified as Victor goes on to state he `deprived [himself] of rest and health', showing how he
denies his own human impulses in order to achieve his aim. Thus, there is some element of the
`abhuman' within Victor ­ his desires are highlighted as unnatural and they set him apart from the rest
of humanity. This abhuman quality is a common Gothic trope, but placing it within a human creates an
opposition and blurs the boundary between the two, inciting fear into the novel.
Victor's obsessional nature can also be seen within his narcissistic desire for recognition and praise:
`Wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease
from the human frame'. Thus, one of the most significant influences which propels Victor on in his
pursuit is his obsessional and intense desire for credit and acknowledgement. There are parallels
between Victor and the concept of God, as Victor similarly seeks to create life, and the idea of a
human attempting to hold such great power is one that may have been frightening to a 19th century
audience who may have seen this as a betrayal of God, making the religious elements another key
Gothic influence.
Furthermore, obsession can be similarly seen within Brontë's `Wuthering Heights', most significantly
within the doomed passion between Cathy and Heathcliff, which resonates at the core of the novel.
Cathy and Heathcliff's love can be seen to surpass the boundaries of normality and instead is
highlighted to be extreme and highly intense: `My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks
beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!' Brontë presents the
Gothic convention of a doppelganger through Cathy's statement `I am Heathcliff' and highlights the
absolute strength of the bond between the two. Furthermore, Cathy and Heathcliff's obsessional
passion can be seen to defy the boundary of life and death, as Cathy goes on to state `...they may
bury me twelve feet deep, and throw the church down over me, but I won't rest till you are with
me.' This is exemplified further through Cathy's later haunting of Heathcliff, and adds an element of
the supernatural to the novel. Gothic literature is known to play on the real fears held by the human
world, and such extremity of emotion is thus seen as the catalysts behind supernatural occurrences
and the suggestion of obsessional human power as having the ability to surpass logic and rationality
is one that may have been particularly frightening to a 19th century audience.
Cathy's madness later on in the novel can also be seen to stem from her obsessional mind-set and
unbreakable bond to Heathcliff. Nelly states `she increased her feverish bewilderment to madness,
and tore the pillow with her teeth; then raising herself up all burning, desired that I would open the
window.' The adjectives `feverish' and `burning' in particular may act as metaphors for the almost

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Cathy's passion, which sparks her decent into madness. This madness depicts
Cathy as uncivilized and unrestrained, a factor which also resonates within Heathcliff's demeanour.
Upon Cathy's death he is said to have `...howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast getting
goaded to death with knives and spears.' Thus, such obsession and unrestrained emotion leads to
the two's inability to conform to the civilized expectations of society and can be seen as one of the
influences which leads towards their demise.…read more


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