Gothic Literature- the Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe and Dracula by Bram Stoker Essay
Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe Any text that is composed is written to fit into the society that it is written for. A genre must evolve and modernise itself to remain relevant and interesting to the target audience. In “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe and “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, the composers have both adapted their stories to appeal the people of their time. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker used many of the conventions of the gothic genre to appeal to the Victorian Society.
Stoker used the style of the novel, his characters and the tone to create an enticing text based on the beliefs of the novel’s era. The tone of the novel Dracula seemed to be fear. Fear is a very common theme in many gothic texts. A few different types of fear were used in “Dracula” but the most prominent was the fear of evil and the supernatural. This comes from the era in which “Dracula” was written. In the Victorian era, religion played a huge role in people’s lives. These religious beliefs are shown in the quote “No longer she is the devils Un-dead.
She is God’s true dead, whose soul is with Him. People still strongly believed in superstitions and evil creatures and because of this fear, “Dracula” was a truly terrifying novel. Many allusions are made to myths and legends that were more commonly know in the Victorian era than in the modern world. “The brows were wrinkled as though the fold of flesh were the coils Medusa’s snakes” is a reference to the popular Greek legend of the goddess Medusa, with her hair of serpents. The characters in “Dracula” tend to reflect the moral codes of the Victorian era.
The antagonists are the embodiment of the behaviors considered unpropitious in the era that “Dracula” was composed in, such as the overly sexual female vampires that try to prey on Jonathon Harker. They were very forward in their approach to Jonathon, though in Victorian Society it was considered wrong for a female to be anything but demure and virtuous. Their lecherous nature is shown in the quote “He is young and strong, there are kisses for us all”. In Victorian society a high value was placed on virtue, and the protagonists of the story were corrupted by this.
In the era that “Dracula” was composed, it was a patriarchal society, where it was considered proper for the man to be more dominant in his family. It was this overtly sexual portrayal of the female vampires that challenged the normal gender expectations of the Victorian era. Van Helsing was undoubtedly the hero of the story, after leading the group of people to destroy Count Dracula and his creations. He was the embodiment all the good values of a Victorian society. He was a great academic and his knowledge helped to destroy Count Dracula on the quest of Jonathon Harker and his friends.
He is rational and but still sympathetic to his friend’s troubles, as when he was killing the Un-dead Lucy. Van Helsing gave Arthur the courage to restore Lucy to a “holy and not unholy memory” when he told Arthur, “Brave lad! A moment’s courage, and it is done. ” This compassion shows Van Helsing to be the perfect Victorian male. Count Dracula is the embodiment of all that is despised and malevolent in Victorian society. Count Dracula is inhuman, undead, and unholy but there is a great contrast to his respectable self.
Count Dracula is first portrayed as a great scholar, a gentleman of great knowledge and evidently an intriguing man. When Jonathon Harker first meets Count Dracula, he is surprised at “The light and the warmth of the counts courteous welcome”, thinking the count is a man of prestige. As Count Dracula’s true, vampiric self emerges he becomes barbaric and dangerous. spy Count Dracula “slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great The most dangerous trait of which would be his alluring effect on his victims.
Jonathon Harker described Count Dracula upon their meeting as a man with a mouth of “peculiarly sharp white teeth” and his hands, “there were hairs in the center of the palm. The nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. ” Upon Jonathon staring out the window, he inadvertently happens to spy Count Dracula “slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings…. move downwards with considerable speed just as a lizard moves along a wall. Just after this Count Dracula brings back a small child to feed to the female vampires, which is the most barbaric deed that any character could do in a gothic novel. To lose a child was the greatest fear of many Victorian women, making this crime a truly abominable one. The many gothic conventions in “Dracula” played to the morals of the Victorian era to make it both controversial and acceptable, giving the novel the success it deserved. In comparison, the story “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe modernized the gothic genre even further to adapt it to the audience of the early 19th century.
The composer used the questionable sanity of his character and the overtly violent acts committed by this character, to create an evil that was not embodied as a supernatural creature, but as a man. He created an idea of the perverse nature of humans to create an evil that was truly terrifying. In “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe, the narrator of the story starts to question his own sanity, though instead of taking responsibility for his own actions he shifted the blame onto the other factors such as the “Fiend Intemperance” alcohol, and the sagacious black cat Pluto.
The narrator tells of his humanity and the kindness of his disposition in his youth, but as the story continues he becomes more and more sadistic and violent, as he “not only neglected but ill-used” his pets. This downward spiral of the narrator’s sanity and personality caused him to become the antagonist of the story. After the cold-blooded murder of Pluto, the narrator becomes increasingly adverse and paranoid towards his new pet cat. His sanity is questioned further as he describes the cat as a “Night-mare”, using apostrophe to give the concept of nightmares a living representation.
The prime factor in his questionable sanity came with his cold-blooded attitude towards the murder of his wife and the calm way in which he sought to conceal her corpse. When he describes this scene “I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain” he shows no emotion, after which, instead of showing remorse he preceded ‘with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body” showing that he no longer possessed any repentant feelings or morals in his character.
In this characterization of the narrator, Poe created an evil that was not entirely impossible, but was the inescapable nature of humanity. This was adapted to the audience of the composer’s era, which no longer fully believed in superstitions as science began to be more widely accepted. The questionable supernatural qualities of the black cat caused the responders of the era to speculate as to whether it really was the insanity of the narrator or the fault of a demonic cat.
The sagacious nature of both black cats and the inexplicable similarities between the two cats, such as the second cat losing its eye “the morning after I brought it home” , makes the responder wonder as to whether Pluto is haunting his murderer. The name Pluto comes from the Roman God of death and Ruler of the Underworld, which is symbolism, as the cats are the factors that ultimately cause the downfall and death of the narrator. The image of Pluto burnt on the wall, the night after his murder, is seemingly incomprehensible.
The narrator tells how “when I first beheld this apparition– for I could scarcely regard it as less– my wonder and my terror were extreme”, though they are later explained away with science, showing the adaption of the story to fit in with the modern and scientific reasoning of the early 19th century. Edgar Allen Poe also effectively used the atrocious violence and murder to shock the responders of the era and create intrigue. The violent acts to which the narrator performed towards the Pluto such as when he “deliberately cut one of its eyes from its socket! were blamed on the alcohol, though when he hung the cat, he was sober and calm. He said he hung Pluto because “I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offense; hung it because I knew that in doing so I was committing a sin”. The reasons of this murder were unwarranted and made the sin all the more appalling. Then the murder of his wife who was “the most usual and most patient of sufferers” is done in a most dispassionate way and her corpse is also concealed without a hint of remorse, making the act, if possible, even more scandalous and depraved.
In any era, violent acts like these create curiosity, which is the basis of the gothic genre. With these examples of the perverse nature of man and the inexcusable evil of humanity, Edgar Allen Poe made “the Black Cat” a thrilling story and a chilling example of the gothic genre. Though these two texts (Dracula and The Black Cat) their composers have adapted the gothic genre to appeal to their moral codes of their time. Both Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe have helped the gothic genre to evolve and survive in the world today. Speech-9 minutes 39 seconds