Gothic Genre

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Macbeth - Section A June 14

How far do you agree with the view that Macbeth is a very moral play about the punishment of sin?

  • This question focuses on the gothic concepts of sin and punishment
  • Consideration of the possible sins committed by various characters – likely to be central focus on the murders committed but it is possible that some candidates may consider other sins, perhaps a more specific focus on the seven deadly sins which lead to murder – candidates are likely to focus on Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
  • Consideration of the ways in which characters may be seen to be punished, by death or by madness, for example
  • Some candidates may consider the agents of punishment, the character’s own conscience or other characters – some may see the intervention of the divine or fate or the black arts
  • Discussion of the view that it is a moral play – some may see punishment as just and therefore it is moral
  • Some may consider the fact that the innocent also suffer - is this a form of punishment? – does this mean that the play does not have a moral message as punishment seems to be meted out to those who have not sinned?
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Frankenstein - Section A June 14

To what extent do you agree with the view that the novel is a total condemnation of transgression?

  • Likely to be much discussion of the ways in which Victor transgresses in the creation of the Creature – transgressing human boundaries and taking on a godlike role, transgressing gender boundaries by taking on the perceived female role of "giving birth"
  • Some may see Victor as transgressing the boundaries of human knowledge and see parallels with Walton’s desire for knowledge
  • Possible discussion of sexual transgression – consideration of the implications of Victor’s feelings for Elizabeth (or lack of!) and the dream about his mother are likely to occur – consideration of the implications of the Creature’s desire for a mate
  • Possible discussion of transgressing the boundary between life and death – Victor’s attempts to create new life from death
  • Possible discussion of moral transgression – was Justine’s fate transgressive in this sense?
  • Discussion of what the consequences of transgressing these boundaries are shown to be – possible view that it is always disastrous and the text constitutes a warning against such acts
  • Some engagement with the view that the novel is a "total condemnation" – it may be seen as a partial condemnation.
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The Bloody Chamber - Section A June 14

"Sex and violence are always linked in the stories in The Bloody Chamber"

To what extent do you agree with this view?

  • The focus of this question is the gothic idea of a link between sex and violence
  • Candidates should consider more than one story as the question uses the plural "stories"
  • Consideration of the ways in which many sexual acts are presented in the story in violent terms, the sado-masochistic tendencies of many of the characters eg the **** in The Snow Child, the Marquis’s treatment of his wives in The Bloody Chamber
  • Possible view that sex, even when desired, is presented in violent terms – discussion of the language and imagery involved eg the Marquise in The Bloody Chamber, the tiger in The Tiger’s Bride, the girl in Company of Wolves
  • Consideration of the links between murder or violent death and sex – sex often leads on to violent death
  • Possible consideration of the significance of these links – extreme emotions, passions are more closely connected than we like to think, the psychological implications of this link
  • Some may see the two as not always linked together, Puss-in-Boots, for example
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Section B Q1 - June 14

"Gothic writing is exciting because it allows us to think the unthinkable."

How far do you agree with this view?

  • This question focuses on the gothic concept of taboo subjects
  • Response to the view that gothic writing enables readers to indulge in thinking about taboo subjects which may be exciting because of their forbidden nature
  • Candidates will identify for themselves what they consider to be "unthinkable." Examiners should accept reasonable suggestions.
  • It is likely that there will be included in discussion such subjects as ****, incest, murder, supernatural powers, defying death etc
  • Some candidates may welcome the excitement of such subjects being addressed – a way of exploring the depths of the human psyche, escapism, titillation
  • Some candidates may see this as sensationalism, the sleep of reason, moral turpitude and not find it exciting at all
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Section B Q2- June 14

To what extent do you think gothic writing is a disturbing exploration of the unknown?

  • This question focuses on the gothic concept of the unknown
  • Candidates may interpret the unknown in whichever reasonable way they wish – it may be in the sense of a mystery, lack of knowledge or something which is essentially unknowable ie the supernatural or the divine
  • Consideration of the ways in which gothic writing presents a sense of mystery and the desire to explore those mysteries
  • "Unknown" may be unknown to characters within the text – lack of knowledge as in the case of Catherine Morland for example or an act of concealment, of a murder perhaps
  • "Unknown" may also be universal unknowns to both characters and readers alike – fate after death, divine knowledge etc
  • Some candidates may see the unknown as a plot device, things which are unknown to the reader – a device used by gothic writers to build tension and suspense
  • Response to the word "disturbing" in the question - some may find the exploration of the unknown to be not always "disturbing".
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Section B Q3 - June 14

To what extent do you agree with the view that gothic writing shows that human beings are naturally inclined to be evil rather than good?

  • This question focuses on the gothic concept of evil and asks candidates to consider whether characters in gothic writing are more naturally inclined towards evil than good
  • Consideration of the ways in which there is a moral tension between good and evil in some characters in at least three texts
  • Consideration of ways in which those characters may be deemed to be naturally good – perhaps their goodness has been subverted by other agents eg fate, social circumstances, other characters, the devil!
  • Consideration of the potentially innate evil in some characters from gothic writing – their moral sterility, their over-riding ambition, selfish desires, greed etc
  • Candidates will need to make clear what they consider to be evil and will probably explain why that is so
  • Consideration of characters who may be seen to be wholly good and are therefore not naturally inclined to evil at all
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Macbeth- Section A June 13

“Macbeth is a play about the nature of evil rather than the nature of ambition.”

To what extent do you agree with this view of the play?

  • Some students may agree with this proposition and explore the sources of the gothic concept of evil in the play and their effects
  • Possible discussion of the witches as sources of evil
  • Consideration of the evil propensities of Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s characters
  • Some students may explore how the initial evil act of Duncan’s murder leads to other murders and evil escalates – there is no going back in spite of guilt and regret
  • Some students may disagree and show how ambition is central to the play or they may explore the links between ambition and evil
  • Both ideas – evil and ambition – should be adequately addressed in answers – one-sided answers which dismiss either issue will not score as highly
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Frankenstein - Section June 13

Explore some of the ways in which Mary Shelley uses different settings to contribute to the gothic effects of the novel.

 

  • Consideration of the ways in which Mary Shelley uses different settings to create gothic effects
  • Candidates are likely to consider a range of different settings – the implications of geographical locations may be discussed – the Alps, the Arctic, Scotland etc
  • Some candidates may consider the effects of the seasons and the weather
  • Possible consideration of both interior and exterior settings – the workshop, the cottage, graveyards, mountains, sea, ice etc
  • Consideration of links between these settings and gothic effects of terror, horror, alienation, isolation, a sense of awe, a sense of the sublime, fear, transgression of boundaries into the unknown etc
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The Bloody Chambers -June 2013

RT“It is ironic that the beasts are often more humane than the humans.”

Consider at least two of the stories from the collection in the light of this comment

 

Candidates are asked to consider at least two stories but may consider more

Consideration of the roles of the gothic characterisation of the beasts in the stories of their choice

Candidates may have different definitions of ********** – some may take this literally and discuss animals – lions, cats etc – consideration of whether their behaviour may be considered ‘humane’ – kind, benevolent, compassionate

Possible less literal definition of what constitutes a ‘beast’ – some candidates may consider vampires and supernatural beings as beasts

Possibly view that these so-called beasts behave in a humane way – some may argue the alternative

Consideration of the view that the humans do not behave in a humane way – that they are violent, cruel, aggressive, selfish etc

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Section B Q1-June 2013

To what extent do you agree that, in gothic writing, fear and pain are sources of pleasure

Consideration of the gothic concept of fear and how it is created in the texts studied

Candidates are likely to consider the ways in which characters within the texts may be seen to show fear but some candidates may consider how a fearful response is created in the reader

Consideration of the gothic idea of pain – some candidates may focus on physical pain – others may also consider emotional or spiritual pain

Response to the idea that both pleasure and pain – or just one of them – may be a source of pleasure to either the characters or the reader’s.

Possible exploration of the sado-masochistic tendencies in some of the characters eg Angela Carter’s Marquis, Heathcliff – some candidates may explore the pleasure to be gained from inflicting fear and/or pain on other characters rather than their being self-inflicted

Candidates who relate the idea to reader-response may comment on the vicarious thrills to be derived from reading gothic fiction

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Section B Q2-June 2013

“Mad, bad and dangerous.”

How accurate is this as a description of the gothic villains in the texts you have

studied?

POSSIBLE CONTENT

Candidates are asked to explore the ways in which gothic villains are presented in the texts they have studied

Candidates are asked to select the characters for themselves they would define as villains – there may be differing opinions – eg who is the villain in ‘Frankenstein’?

The three components of the quotation in the question should be addressed – having determined villainy, ‘bad’ is not likely to be debatable

Consideration of the potential ‘madness’ of the villains – some may be seen as quite logical and reasonable, others not – can supernatural villains be defined as mad?

Consideration of the relative amounts of danger posed by the villains and to whom including, possibly, danger to themselves

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Section B Q3-June 2013

How do you respond to the view that gothic writing explores potential threats to normal values?

Consideration of the gothic concepts of transgression and excess

Establishment of what can be perceived as ‘normal values’ – probable consideration of a well-established moral code, patterns of behaviour, aspects of life which are usually held to be of worth to most people

Exploration of the ways in which gothic writing could be seen to threaten those values and the means by which it does so.

Exploration of means such as excess, subversion, transgression etc.Some candidates may explore the threats on an individual basis – eg Heathcliff,Faustus, Macbeth or the Snow Child’s father transgressing normal moral boundaries

Other candidates may explore the threats on a social or political level – eg Beatrice’s gender transgression, Frankenstein questioning normal scientific and religious values.

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Section A Macbeth-january 2013

“Some say he’s mad; others, that lesser hate him,Do call it valiant fury.” (Caithness: Act 5, Scene 2)Consider Macbeth as a gothic protagonist in the light of this comment. 

The question focuses on the gothic concept of madness and Macbeth’s role as a gothic protagonist in relation to this concept 

 Some candidates may agree with Caithness that Macbeth is mad and explore the ways in which some of Macbeth’s actions could be seen to be those of a mad man 

 Possible examination of the role played by reason in Macbeth’s actions – does he always have a reason to murder? 

• Some candidates may see Macbeth as obsessive or coldly logical rather than mad – his vaulting ambition – some may argue that his behaviour gets more obsessive as the play progresses, his willingness to eliminate any who suspect him or stand in his way – where is the dividing line between obsession or ruthless tyranny and madness? 

Madness may be considered in terms of the threat of harm or danger to oneself or others – danger to others in Macbeth’s case is not in doubt but the issue of self-inflicted/intentional harm could produce some interesting debate 

• Candidates may either agree or disagree with the comment in the quotation

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Section A frankenstein -january 2013

“Throughout the novel the boundaries between good and evil are continuously blurred, leaving the reader with moral uncertainty.” How far do you agree with this view of the novel? 

Exploration of the forces of good in the novel – possible discussion of the “goodness” of Elizabeth and Justine and the fact that they may be seen to suffer because of or in spite of their goodness 

• Some candidates may see Frankenstein’s desire to increase knowledge and benefit mankind as essentially good and explore how this goes wrong .Candidates may also see Frankenstein as evil in his desire to play god, his usurpation of the maternal role or his neglect of parental responsibility for his “creation” 

• Consideration of the role of the monster – many are likely to see him as initially “good” – in need of care and affection – turning evil when shunned by Frankenstein 

• Many candidates show much sympathy for the monster but the murders he commits should not be overlooked! 

• Some candidates may consider the ending of the novel, seeing it as morally ambiguous – there are moral ambiguities throughout which are not necessarily resolved at the end with the clear victory of good or evil 

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Section A The Bloody Chambers -january 2013

“Throughout the novel the boundaries between good and evil are continuously blurred, leaving the reader with moral uncertainty.” 

How far do you agree with this view of the novel? 

• Exploration of the forces of good in the novel – possible discussion of the “goodness” of Elizabeth and Justine and the fact that they may be seen to suffer because of or in spite of their goodness 

• Some candidates may see Frankenstein’s desire to increase knowledge and benefit mankind as essentially good and explore how this goes wrong 

• Candidates may also see Frankenstein as evil in his desire to play god, his usurpation of the maternal role or his neglect of parental responsibility for his “creation” 

• Consideration of the role of the monster – many are likely to see him as initially “good” – in need of care and affection – turning evil when shunned by Frankenstein 

• Many candidates show much sympathy for the monster but the murders he commits should not be overlooked! 

• Some candidates may consider the ending of the novel, seeing it as morally ambiguous – there are moral ambiguities throughout which are not necessarily resolved at the end with the clear victory of good or evil 

• The question focuses on the typical gothic convention of the struggle between good and evil

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