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“In Gothic texts the lines between the human and animal kingdoms can be blurred.” Explore the relevance of this view with two texts that you have studied.

With Gothic texts usually evolving around death, sorrow and misery, it makes clear to introduce the aspect of the animal kingdom to the human world in order to create a far more powerful Gothic atmosphere. In The Bloody Chamber, Carter introduces the animal kingdom in order to create vagueness between humans and animals: deep down, we all have animalistic behaviour which stems down to our instinctual behaviour. On the other hand, in Frankenstein, Frankenstein can be seen to be a doppelgänger to the Monster making clear that Shelley wants to juxtapose the two kingdoms (if the Monster is from the animal kingdom). However, in different parts of each text, Shelley and Carter can both be seen to create clear and blurry distinctions between the two kingdoms to create a different symbolism towards each separate kingdom.

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In Frankenstein, the line between the human and animal kingdoms is made vague from the appearance of the Monster and, because of this, is then concurred further when we first gain an idea of the Monster’s personality. Captain Walton is the first to see the Monster and describes it as, ‘the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature’. The description of the Monster’s first sighting is ambiguous creating tension to what the Monster actually is. Although he resembles a man at first sight, we anticipate the ‘gigantic stature’ is an abnormal quality which puts the Monster further towards the animal kingdom. From this, it is clear the Monster’s appearance possesses qualities from both kingdoms. However, Frankenstein, when he has created the Monster, uses ‘horror’ many times to make clear his shock of the Monster’s appearance. Planned to look like a human, Frankenstein has misjudged the creation of the Monster making him become increasingly animalistic looking fearing his personality and behaviour will be as shocking as his appearance. Yet, when the Monster first opens his eyes to life, ‘a grin wrinkled his cheeks’. This links in with Joe-Jacques Rousseau’s theory of noble savage that every living being is born as a metaphorical blank page. Although the reader now perceives the Monster to be bad from the description Frankenstein has given him of being as a, ‘catastrophe’, because the Monster has no memory of anything from just being born, he is ultimately innocent and pure. This makes the connection that every living creature will have started as a blank page no matter what it looks like or what background its parents have had: the human and animal kingdom is blurred because at the start of every life be it human or animal, we are all a blank page ready to be filled with experiences that crafts us into the people we are today.

The Bloody Chamber deliberately blurs the boundary between the two kingdoms because Carter uses the animals as a symbolism for the sexuality for humans. This is made clear in The Courtship Of Mr Lyon where Beauty is used as a negotiation tool for her father stealing a rose from the Beast’s garden. Beauty is described as ‘Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial’, presenting Beauty which an animalistic vulnerable nature. Beauty is in the control of the Beast because she is his prey. The sexual imagery is present is this quote with ‘spotless’ demonstrating that Beauty is a virgin with ‘sacrificial’ meaning she is willing (or more obliged) to have sex with the Beast as a sacrifice for her father, ‘she would have gone to the ends of the earth for her father’. Therefore, from a human perspective, Beauty is a young girl who’s virginity has been used to satisfy the Beast. From an animal perspective, though, she is a prey to the Beast that has been laid to the Beast by Beauty’s father as an offering. This offering of tender young meat makes the Beast look like he is a God receiving a sacrifice empowering the Beast. Either way, the sexual imagery from describing humans as animals makes clear the line between the kingdoms is vague at best and is kept this way to aid the transformation from kingdoms both Beast and Beauty make at the end, ‘Mr and Mrs Lyon’ which also happens many times in The Bloody Chamber such as with The Werewolf, ‘no longer a wolf’s paw, but a hand’.

The kingdoms of the human and animal worlds can be seen to contrast in both texts due to the raw and unfinished nature the animal kingdom is given. In The Bloody Chamber (the story, not text), the women is described as, ‘bare as a lamb chop’. Again, Carter creates sexual imagery relating to the exposure of the women with the connotations of a lamb being of innocence and virginal purity. However, to use a metaphorical simile which describes a women as raw meat makes clear that she is not ready to lose her virginity and needs time to mature. This animalistic imagery can also be seen to be in Frankenstein too. The Monster is conveyed as also raw and unfinished with many of his dead body parts being constructed out of proportion, ‘his yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath’. The Monster cannot be seen as human because physically, although stronger, his body is dead and deformed. This highlights that the Monster does belong to the animal kingdom. However, the definition of ‘animal’ can vary. In The Bloody Chamber, it is clear Carter refers to animals being normal living creatures. In Frankenstein, ‘animal’ refers more to subhuman.

There are times in Frankenstein where the animal kingdoms are made to look like the human kingdom. In Frankenstein, the narration of the Monster is in a highly educated fashion: typical of the 1800s, ‘A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me’. An element which differs humans from animals is that humans are far more intelligent with a far greater depth of knowledge. The way the Monster speaks brings him closer to the human kingdom. This point is supported by the complex emotions the monster experiences which would not happen to a creature of the animal kingdom, ‘I will be with you on your wedding night’. The Monster has learnt to revenge the destruction of Frankenstein’s second creation for the Monster. From this, it explains that although the Monster is ultimately overpowering and visually an animalistic creature to be feared, deep down, he is human – afterall, he was made up of human body parts. The ending to Frankenstein is where the reader will truly see the Monster as human. The Monster regrets the actions he has done and is willing to punish himself to stop future pain and suffering for both himself and humanity, ‘I have murdered the lovely and the helpless…I shall collect my funeral pile, and consume to ashes this miserable frame’. An animal’s instinctive behaviour is to survive. Above everything, an animal knows it must survive. The Monster’s moral conscience has taken over any instinctive behaviour it possessed making clear that the Monster was born into the human kingdom and died into the human kingdom too from possessing the traits of a human.

Ultimately, the lines between the human and animal kingdoms are blurred: in both cases of Frankenstein and The Bloody Chamber, the boundaries are blurred so that humans can take some of the traits of animals the reader will stereotypically view (such as to be aggressive, instinctive or fundamental). The Bloody Chamber uses the animal kingdom to help with symbolising sexuality that when sexuality appears in The Bloody Chamber, it comes across more as a fundamental job to do than to gain pleasure from. When the kingdoms contrast, it is to create a clear difference between the two sexes with usually the woman becoming the more powerful figure such as in The Lady Of The House Of Love, The Bloody Chamber, The Courtship Of Mr Lyon and The Erl King. The human kingdom (being the woman) overcomes the animal kingdom of the man to become the more powerful of the two kingdoms at the end of the short stories. This brings to light that overall, the human kingdom to The Bloody Chamber will always overpower the animal side which mimics that of Frankenstein too. If the Monster was viewed from the animal kingdom, the human kingdom overpowers the animal kingdom. However, the underlying fact is that the Monster contains more traits from the human kingdom than the animal kingdom. The complexity of the plot cannot have come from any creature from the animal kingdom. For this reason, there is no boundary between the human and animal kingdoms in Frankenstein because Shelley simply does not make the Monster animalistic enough to be viewed from the animal kingdom. With The Bloody Chamber, the boundaries frequently crossover, due to the transformations from kingdoms, to illustrate that deep within every human, there is an animalistic nature.


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