Obsession in the gothic
To what extent do you agree that obsession is a significant element in the gothic writing you have studied? The word obsession means the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image or desire. With this in mind, both Faustus and Frankenstein show symptoms of monomania in relation to academic obsession. Similarly, in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ the characters that experience obsession are also male, however they are driven by a different obsession: sexual desire.
In the prologue of ‘Doctor Faustus’ it already begins to establish Faustus’ thirst for knowledge and how this resulted in his tragic downfall. Firstly, the Chorus compares Faustus to the Icarus myth “his waxen wings did mount above his reach”, which suggests that Faustus’ fixation with necromancy is not a power he is supposed to possess, and that his fate will end similarly to Icarus. Furthermore, it states that Faustus “glutted” for “learning”.
The word gluttony highlights that Faustus’ obsession for knowledge can only result in tragedy because it’s one of the seven deadly sins, and also indicates how extreme Faustus’ obsession is. This is because gluttony’s definition is to gorge yourself with something, and is often to the extent of harm. However, you could argue that Faustus’ greed is not completely based around academic knowledge, and he actually desires rival God in terms of power and knowledge. For instance, when Faustus is listing what he would “most, desires” he wanted strength that “exceeded….
the mind of man” and was in comparison to “a mighty god. ” In comparison, Frankenstein also overstepped his reach in pursuit of his obsession, and comments that Robert should “learn” from his mistakes, and that it is “dangerous” for men who “aspire to become greater than this nature will allow. ” These short quotations show us the viewpoint of Shelley during this period on enlightenment, as she was trying to symbolise a moral and didactic message throughout Frankenstein as a warning of all the forthcomings of what could happen if the exploration of science and knowledge became an obsession.
For example, Frankenstein deliberately makes the creature monstrous by making him “proportionally large” at about “eight feet in height” because he wanted to finish his creation as soon as possible, and didn’t think about the consequences this would have for the creature when he actually succeeded in bring him to life. On the other hand, in “The Bloody Chamber” whilst obsession is not as significant as the other two texts, Carter uses masculine sexual obsession to critique how patriarchal our society still is.
For example, in ‘The Snow Child” she is called the “child of his desire”. He wishes for her to be beautiful and nothing else, so it is clear that he is interested only in her appearance and her value as a sexual object. Furthermore, once she has fulfilled her purpose of becoming a sexual object, she dies. This could be Carter symbolizing that once a woman tries to become the objection of a mans obsessions and desires, it becomes impossible for her to ever live up to expectations, and therefore a death sentence.