A Fantastic Text Tells Of An Indomitable

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A Fantastic Text Tells Of An Indomitable Desire….” (R. Jackson) How Useful Do You Find This Defini Essay, Research Paper Using the fantastic as a medium to express states of mind or unwritten desires has b~ n a popular form for many writers since the Romantic era and still is today. However, it has also been used, in my opinion, to articulate fears ~’x , and communicate feelings of cultural uneaseV In this essay, I will attempt to determine to what extent both are true and which is the more significant explanation for the common use of fantasy as a medium. I will also consider the question of why it appears to be a particularly important form for many female authors. During the late eighteenth century there was a proliferation of what we term Gothic texts. These

“horrid” novels are said to have been particularly popular with a female readership and usually featured young, vulnerable women in life-threatening or terrifyin situations.-Varying degrees of the fantastic were to be found in these novels, ranging from haunted castles and giants to sinister Counts and imprisoned wives languishing in madness in secret towers. Examples of these novels include Anne Radcliffe’s The MYsteries of Udolpho and The Romance of The Forest and later, rather different works such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. These novels can ~ viewed as expressing a deep sense of cultural unease, as they were written at a time of great upheaval and metamorphosis when society was changing from an agriculturally based village system to what would become an almost

unrecognisable industrial society. Power was passing from the landed gentry to a ~/ money~oriented middle class oligarchy.~The American and French Revolutions had placed fear in the hearts of the ruling classes and draconian measures such as the suspension of Habeas Corpus and widespread censorship were being implemented to attempt to quell revolutionary groups in society.~ People were also witnessing the advancement of a utilitarian industrial society and increasing secularism which threatened to destroy the way of life and the values they were accustomed to, and rather than replacing it with the egalitarian society the French had hoped for, a horrific life in a polluted city working in the sweat shops of the new rich appeared to be all that was on offer for the large majority

of the population. This naturally led to a great deal of political unrest and in order to limit the threat to their position that this presented, the reign of the terrified became a reign of terror, which threatened the freedom of all areas of society, not least that of writers. However, the Gothic text also expressed the fears and frustrations felt by the almost powerless female half of society.~It is not difficult to see the powerless position of the typical Gothic heroine as representing very clearly that of a woman at the peak of the Gothic novel’s popularity. The heroine is prey to unscrupulous men who wish at the least to rob her of integrity and at worst to rape or kill her. In a society where women passed directly from the control of their fathers to that of their

husbands (usually chosen for them) against whom they had virtually no redress or right of divorce, despite the fact that their husbands could, if they so desired, put them away, make their lives miserable or indeed have them killed without much difficulty. Banished wives imprisoned in towers represented in an extreme form, the deep seated anxieties of many ~omen and their resentment at their lack of power. ~However, the fact that the Gothic heroine generally overcomes the almost unsurmountable odds to escape and live happily ever after demonstrates the fulfilment of the ,~ indomitable desire that Jackson writes of. These novels, the forerunners of the contemporary fantastic text, can therefore be seen to both express the fears and frustrations of their readers whilst also