A generation of Freudians have busied themselves reading the Gothic novel as an externalization of the author's psyche, or as a device to elicit a proscribed pyschological response from the reader. However, because the true Gothic novels comprise a well-defined canon, produced within a narrow space of time, it is possible to read them as reflections a distinct social psyche--that is, as illustrating deep-seated concerns and anxieties associated with a specific political and historical moment. The sudden flourishing of the Gothic novel at the end of the eighteenth century has been linked by critics to such cultural preoccupations as the French Revolution (and persistent Jacobin uprisings in England) and concerns about the place of the individual--in relation to both the family and society at large--in a rapidly changing social order.
Sade, characteristically ahead of his time, was perhaps the first critic to identify the fictitious horrors of the Gothic novel with the all-too-real horrors of the 1790s. He wrote that the revolutionary age had numbed the senses of the general populace to such an extent that authors were obliged to "call upon the aid of hell itself" in order to strike a chord of recognition with readers. (Sade later went on to try his own hand at Gothic short stories.) In a fascinating article, Ronald Paulson builds upon Sade's association of the Gothic and the French Revolution. Paulson reads The Monk and Caleb Williams as bearing witness to the inevitably bloody excesses of the revolutionary mob, which in throwing off tyranny becomes itself tyrannical. He sees Frankenstein as mapping this theme of rebellion onto the family, with the oppressive "father" locked in struggle with the wronged "son". Frederick Karl also cites Caleb Williams, along with Frankenstein, in discussing the recurrent theme of the "outsider". David Punter uses both Freud and Marx to read the original Gothic novels as literary manifestations of the deep social anxieties of the late eighteenth century; he sees Otranto reflecting the ambivalence of the English toward their feudal past in light of the dawning of liberal humanism, and the later Gothics revealing deep concerns about the fate of the individual in industrial, post- Enlightenment society. Finally, Stephen Bernstein takes a very different approach, arguing that the Gothic novels reproduce a "psychological" ideology in which the will of the individual is always eventually subordinated to the family and to society. He cites examples, not just from the "conservative" Radcliffe novels, but from The Monk, Otranto, and Melmoth as well.
From The Monk
Here St. Ursula ended her narrative. It created horror and surprise throughout: But when She related the inhuman murder of Agnes, the indignation of the Mob was so audibly testified, that it was scarcely possible to hear the conclusion. This confusion increased with every moment: at length a multitude of voices exclaimed, that the Prioress should be given up to their fury....They forced a passage through the Guards who protected their destined Victim, dragged her from her shelter, and proceeded to take upon her a most summary and cruel vengeance. Wild with terror, and scarcely knowing what she said, the wretched Woman shrieked for a moment's mercy: She protested that She was innocent of the death of Agnes, and could clear herself from the suspicion beyond the power of doubt. The Rioters heeded nothing but the gratification of their barbarous vengeance. They refused to listen to her: They showed her every sort of insult, loaded her with mud and filth and called her by the most opprobrious appellations. They tore her one from another, and each new Tormentor was more savage than the former. They stifled with howls and execrations her shrill cries for mercy; and dragged her through the Streets, spurning her, trampling her, and treating her with every species of cruelty which hate or vindictive fury could invent. At length a Flint, aimed by some well-directing hand, struck her full upon the temple. She sank upon the ground bathed in blood, and in a few minutes terminated her miserable existence,. yet though She no longer felt their insults, the Rioters till exercised their impotent rage upon her lifeless body. They beat it, trod upon it, and ill-used it, till it became no more than a mass of flesh, unsightly, shapeless, and disgusting.
Marquis de Sade, Idee sur les Romans (Geneva: Slatkine, 1967).
Perhaps at this point we ought to analyze these new novels in which sorcery and phantasmagoria constitute practically the entire merit: foremost among them I would place The Monk, which is superior in all respects to the strange flights of Mrs. Radcliffe's brilliant imagination....Let us concur that this kind of fiction, whatever one may think of it, is assuredly not without merit: twas the inevitable result of the revolutionary shocks which all of Europe has suffered. For anyone familiar with the full range of misfortunes wherewith evildoers can beset mankind, the novel became as difficult to write as monotonous to read. There was not a man alive who had not experienced in the short span of four or five years more misfortunes than the most celebrated novelist could portray in a century. Thus, to compose works of interest, one had to call upon the aid of hell itself, and to find in the world of make- believe things wherewith one was fully familiar merely by delving into man's daily life in this age of iron.
Ronald Paulson, "Gothic Fiction and the French Revolution," ELH 48 (1981): 532-53.
The Gothic did in fact serve as a metaphor with which some contemporaries in England tried to come to terms with what was happening across the Channel in the 1790s. The first Revolutionary emblem was the castle-prison, the Bastille and its destruction by an angry mob, which was fitted by Englishmen into the model of the Gordon Riots of nine years before. But if one way of dealing with the Revolution (in its earliest stages) was to see the castle-prison through the eyes of a sensitive young girl who responds to terror in the form of forced marriage and stolen property, another was to see it through the case history of her threatening oppressor, Horace Walpole's Manfred or M.G. Lewis' Ambrosio--the less comforting reality Austen was heralding in the historical phenomena of London riots. In Lewis' The Monk (1795) the two striking phenomena dramatized are first the explosion--the bursting out of the bonds--of a repressed monk imprisoned from earliest childhood in a monastery, with the havoc wreaked by his self- liberation (assisted by demonic forces) on his own family who were responsible his being immured; and second, the blood-thirsty mob that lynches-- literally grinds into a bloody pulp--the wicked prioress who has murdered those of her nuns who succumbed to sexual temptation. Both are cases of justification followed by horrible excess: Ambrosio deserves to break out and the mob is justified in punishing the evil prioress, but Ambrosio's liberty leads him to the shattering of his vow of celibacy, to repression, murder, and rape not unlike the compulsion against which he was reacting; and the mob not only destroys the prioress but (recalling the massacres of September 1792) the whole community and the convent itself:
"The incensed Populace, confounding the innocent with the guilty, had resolved to sacrifice all the Nuns of that order to their rage, and not to leave one stone of the building upon another. They battered the walls, threw lighted torches in at the windows and swore that by break of day not a Nun of St. Clare's order should be left alive.... The Rioters poured into the interior part of the Building, where they exercised their vengeance upon every thing which found itself in their passage. They broke the furniture into pieces, tore down the pictures, destroyed the reliques, and in their hatred of her Servant forgot all respect to the Saint. Some employed themselves in searching out the Nuns, Others in pulling down parts of the Convent, and Others again in setting fire to the pictures and furniture, which it contained. These Latter produced the most decisive desolation: In-deed the consequences of their action were more sudden, than themselves had expected or wished. The Flames rising from the burning piles caught part of the Building, which being old and dry, the conflagration spread with rapidity from room to room. The Walls were soon shaken by the devouring element. The Columns gave way; The Roofs came tumbling down upon the Rioters, and crushed many of them beneath their weight. Nothing was to be heard but shrieks and groans, the Convent was wrapped in flames, and the whole presented a scene of devastation and horror."
The end, of course, as it appeared to Englishmen in 1794-- remembering Thomas Paine's words ("From a small spark, kindled in America, a flame has arisen, not to be extinguished) and the imagery of light and fire associated with the Revolution--was the destruction of the revolutionaries themselves in the general collapse.
The relationship between Falkland and Caleb is the same explored by Inchbald and Holcroft between society the cruel hunter and the suffering individual, its victim. But by the time Godwin was writing, the French Terror had cast its shadow on libertarian dreams, and his work reflects that constant potential for simple inversion of the persecutor-persecuted relationship which events in Paris had so terribly exemplified....For Caleb Williams, in his way, becomes as much a persecutor (and ultimately a murderer) as his master--and is eventually brought to commit similar crimes through an obsessive concern to protect the "honour" he no longer possesses.
The construction of the monster, as of the makeshift, non- organic family, is the final aspect of the Frankenstein plot. Burke's conception of the state as organic and of the Revolution as a family convulsed was joined by Mary Shelley with the fact of her own "family," the haphazard one in which she grew up with other children of different mothers and with a stepmother. This creation of a family of children by some method other than natural, organic procreation within a single love relationship is projected onto the Frankenstein family, a family assembled by the additive process of adoptions and the like, and so to Victor's own creation of a child without parents or sexual love.....Frankenstein predictably sees himself as the father who ''deserves the gratitude of his children more "completely" than any other, and in saying so becomes the tyrant himself. As an allegory of the French Revolution, his experiment corresponds to the possibility of ignoring the paternal (and maternal) power by constructing one's own offspring out of sheer reason, but it shows that the creator is still only a "father" and his creation another "son" locked into the same love-tyranny relationship Mary's own father had described so strikingly in Caleb Williams (another book Mary had reread as she undertook her novel).
The monster saw my determination in my face and gnashed his teeth in the impotence of anger. "Shall each man," cried he, "find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains--revenge, hence forth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict.
From Caleb Williams
What--dark, mysterious, unfeeling, unrelenting tyrant!--is it come to this? When Nero and Caligula swayed the Roman sceptre, it was a fearful thing to offend these bloody rulers. The empire had already spread itself from climate to climate, and from sea to sea. If their unhappy victim fled to the rising of the sun, where the luminary of day seems to us first to ascend from the waves of the ocean, the power of the tyrant was still behind him. If he withdrew to the west, to Hesperian darkness, and the shores of barbarian Thule, still he was not safe from his gore-drenched foe.--Falkland! art thou the offspring in whom the lineaments of these tyrants are faithfully preserved? Was the world, with all its climates, made in vain for thy helpless unoffending victim?
Tyrants have trembled, surrounded with whole armies of their Janissaries! What should make thee inaccessible to my fury? No, I will use no daggers! I will unfold a tale!--I will show thee to the world for what thou art; and all the men that live, shall confess my truth!--Didst thou imagine that I was altogether passive, a mere worm, organised to feel sensations of pain, but no emotion of resentment? Didst thou imagine that there was no danger in inflicting on me pains however great, miseries however dreadful? Didst thou believe me impotent, imbecile, and idiot-like, with no understanding to contrive thy ruin, and no energy to perpetrate it?
I will tell a tale--! The justice of the country shall hear me! The elements of nature in universal uproar shall not interrupt me! I will speak with a voice more fearful than thunder!--Why should I be supposed to speak from any dishonourable motive? I am under no prosecution now! I shall not now appear to be endeavouring to remove a criminal indictment from myself by throwing it back on its author! --Shall I regret the ruin that will overwhelm thee? Too long have I been tender-hearted and forbearing! What benefit has ever resulted from my mistaken clemency? There is no evil thou hast scrupled to accumulate upon me! Neither will I be more scrupulous! Thou hast shown no mercy; and thou shalt receive none!--I must be calm! bold as a lion, yet collected!
Frederick R. Karl, "Gothic, Gothicism, Gothicists" in The
Adversary Literature: The English Novel in the Eighteenth Century -- A
Study in Genre (New York: Farrar, 1974), pp. 235-274.
The one theme that cuts through virtually all Gothic is that of the "outsider," embodied in wanderers like Frankenstein's monster and Maturin's Melmoth, monks such as Lewis's Ambrosio and Mrs. Radcliffe's Schedoni, and so on. The outsider, like Cain, moves along the edges of society, in caves, on lonely seacoasts, or in monasteries and convents. While the society at large always appears bourgeois in its culture and morality, the Gothic outsider-like the earlier picaro is a counterforce driven by strange longings and destructive needs. While everyone else appears sane, he is insane; while everyone else appears bound by legalities, he is, like Laocoon, trying to snap the pitiless constrictions of the law; while everyone else seems to lack any peculiarities of taste or behavior, he feels only estrangement, sick longings, terrible surges of power and devastation. He is truly countercultural, an alternate force, almost mythical in his embodiment of the burdens and sins of society.
Caleb Williams is a catchall of eighteenth-century themes and techniques.... Caleb Williams, ultimately, is concerned with the nature of tyranny and with a definition of individual human rights. Written shortly after the French Revolution, the novel is, in a sense, an extension of the ideas of the rights of man. Godwin argues that man has the right to fulfill himself without interference from tyranny; that the individual must always seek the maximum amount of choice in an oppressive society; that a person must never let himself be governed by circumstance (the latter an eighteenth-century assumption); that human dignity demands each responsible individual break the master-slave relationship wherever he finds it; that responsible people can together create an enlightened world conducive to freedom; that man is, indeed, Faustian in his positive ability to throw off the old and assume the mantle of the new.
...Falkland is himself a false representative of the world of art. He is duplicitous, manipulative, and ruthless in pursuit of his own values....Falkland, then, is a false prophet. His cultivated mind is only one part of him; the other part is the tyrannical aspect of England and Europe, which, before the French Revolution, terrorized all those who failed to accept traditional hierarchies and customary chains of being. The truly new man is Caleb Williams--his name alone would appear to indicate his newness as a post-revolutionary hero. Although gifted with a bookish mind, a good memory, and an easy manner, he is ordinary. The hunting down of Caleb, both mythical and symbolic, is indicative of the play of forces: the new man chased by the old, hounded by the footsteps of authoritarianism, dogged by traditional values.
Gothic fiction, as we have observed, is concerned with the outsider, whether the stationary figure who represses his difference, or the wandering figure who seeks for some kind of salvation, or else the individual who for whatever reason- moves entirely outside the norm. In any event, he is beyond the moderating impulses in society, and he must be punished for his transgression. Frankenstein's monster obviously straddles these categories. He wanders through mountain areas of the far North, lurks in caves and caverns, in places no one else dare go. He seeks a mate, a complement to his own loneliness. He is gloomy and melancholy, full of self-pity and self-hatred. Like Cain, he is the perpetual outsider, marked by his appearance, doomed to wander the four corners of the earth, alone and reviled.
As an outsider, he argues with Frankenstein that he needs a female monster with the same defects, so that he will not have to go through life alone. He desires completion in monstrosity--still well within the Gothic orbit. This argument, however, becomes intermixed with several eighteenth-century strains existing outside of Gothic. In a curious turn, the monster sees himself as capable of all kinds of beautiful behavior, but because of his ghastly appearance, no one will allow him to develop his propensities for good. A product of ill treatment and society's horror, he can only indulge in revenge and cruel acts against the innocent. The monster's plaint comes directly from the eighteenth-century belief in the tabula rasa and Godwin's sense of the individual's innate right to develop at his own rate. At the same time, this point is well within the idealism and political beliefs of Shelley's circle.
From The Castle of Otranto
The prisoner soon drew her attention: the steady and composed manner in which he answered, and the gallantry of his last reply, which were the first words she heard distinctly, interested her in his favour. His person was noble, handsome and commanding, even in that situation: but his countenance soon engrossed her whole care. Heavens! Bianca, said the princess softly, do I dream? or is not that youth the exact resemblance of Alfonso's picture in the gallery? She could say no more, for her father's voice grew louder at every word. This bravado, said he, surpasses all thy former insolence. Thou shalt experience the wrath with which thou darest to trifle. Seize him, continued Manfred, and bind him--the first news the princess hears of her champion shall be, that he has lost his head for her sake. The injustice of which thou art guilty towards me, said Theodore, convinces me that I have done a good deed in delivering the princess from thy tyranny. May she be happy, whatever becomes of me!--This is a lover! cried Manfred in a rage: a peasant within sight of death is not animated by such sentiments. Tell me, tell me, rash boy, who thou art, or the rack shall force thy secret from thee. Thou hast threatened me with death already, said the youth, for the truth I have told thee: if that is all the encouragement I am to expect for sincerity, I am not tempted to indulge thy vain curiosity farther. Then thou wilt not speak? said Manfred. I will not, replied he. Bear him away into the court-yard, said Manfred; I will see his head this instant severed from his body.
David Punter, The Literature of Terror (London: Longman, 1980).
...Otranto is serious about history. For whatever its shortcomings and infelicities, it does give evidence of an eighteenth century view of feudalism and the aristocracy, and in doing so originates what was to become perhaps the most prevalent theme in Gothic fiction: the revisiting of the sins of the fathers upon their children. When this is placed in a contemporaneous setting, it is a simple theme; but it becomes altogether more complex when the very location of crime and disorder is thrust back into the past. The figure of Manfred, laden with primal crime, is considerably larger than Otranto itself: his violence, his bullying, his impatience with convention and sensibility mark him out not only as the caricature of a feudal baron, but also as the irrepressible villain who merely mocks at society, who remains unassimilable.
What is interesting is the conjunction in Manfred, and after him in so many other Gothic villains, of the feudal baron and the figure of antisocial power. If, as seems likely, the widespread appearance of these figures signifies a social anxiety, then that anxiety clearly had a historical dimension: threat to convention was seen as coming partly from the past, out of the memory of previous social and psychological orders. In other words, it came from the atrophying aristocracy; and if one thing can be said of all the different kinds of fiction which were popular in the later eighteenth century, it is that they consistently played upon the remarkably clear urge of the middle classes to read about aristocrats. Otranto's strength and resonance derive largely from the fact that in it Walpole evolved a primitive symbolic structure in which to represent uncertainties about the past: its attitude to feudalism is a remarkable blend of admiration, fear and curiosity.
A great deal of Gothic is about injustice, whether it be divinely inspired, or meted out by man to his fellow men and women. The Wanderer and Frankenstein's monster are powerful symbols of that injustice....The question of why these symbols of injustice and malevolent fate should be conjured up at a particular historical period is a delicate one....It is conventional, and reasonable, to say that the society which generated and read Gothic fiction was one which was becoming aware of injustice in a variety of different areas, and which doubted--principally in the persons of the great romantics--the ability of eighteenth-century social explanations to cope with the facts of experience. We can see it in the dawning consciousness of inequality in the relations between the sexes; in the romantic emphasis on the partiality and non-neutrality of reason as a guiding light for social behaviour; in the increasing awareness that there are parts of the psyche which do not appear to act according to rational criteria; in the constantly reiterated thought that, after all and despite so-called natural law, it is still often the sins of the fathers which are visited on their descendants. This last may well be the strongest argument in connexion with Frankenstein....
...Gothic writing emerges at a particular and definable stage in the development of class relations: we may define this as the stage when the bourgeoisie, having to all intents and purposes gained social power, began to try to understand the conditions and history of their own ascent. This, surely, is the reason for the emphasis in the literature on recapturing history, on forming history into patterns which are capable of explaining present situations....The coming of industry, the move towards the city, the regularisation of patterns of labour in the late eighteenth century, set up a world in which older, 'natural' ways of governing the individual life--the seasons, the weather, simple laws of exchange--become increasingly irrelevant. Instead, individuals are propelled along paths of activity which make sense only as parts of a greater, less easily comprehended whole. The individual comes to see himself at the mercy of forces which in fundamental ways elude his understanding. Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising to find the emergence of a literature whose key motifs are paranoia, manipulation and injustice, and whose central project is understanding the inexplicable, the taboo, the irrational.
From The Italian
[Marchese:] "[W]hat reparation can you make [Ellena] for
the infatuated folly, which has thus stained her character?
"By proclaiming to the world, my Lord, that she is worthy of becoming my wife," replied Vivaldi, with a glow of countenance which announced the courage and the exultation of a virtuous mind.
"Your wife!" said the Marchese, with a look of ineffable disdain, which was instantly succeeded by one of angry alarm.--"If I believed you could so far forget what is due to the honour of your house, I would for ever disclaim you as my son."
"O! why," exclaimed Vivaldi, in an agony of conflicting passions, "why should I be in danger of forgetting what is due to a father, when I am only asserting what is due to innocence; when I am only defending her, who has no other to defend her! Why may not I be permitted to reconcile duties so congenial! But, be the event what it may, I will defend the oppressed, and glory in the virtue, which teaches me, that it is the first duty of humanity to do so. Yes, my Lord, if it must be so, I am ready to sacrifice inferior duties to the grandeur of a principle, which ought to expand all hearts and impel all actions. I shall best support the honour of my house by adhering to its dictates."
"Where is the principle," said the Marchese, impatiently, "which shall teach you to disobey a father; where is the virtue which shall instruct you to degrade your family?"
"There can be no degradation, my Lord, where there is no vice," replied Vivaldi; "and there are instances, pardon me, my Lord, there are some few instances in which it is virtuous to disobey."
"This paradoxical morality," said the Marchese, with passionate displeasure, "and this romantic language, sufficiently explain to me the character of your associates, and the innocence of her, whom you defend with so chivalric an air. Are you to learn, Signor, that you belong to your family, not your family to you; that you are only a guardian of its honour, and not at liberty to dispose of yourself? My patience will endure no more!"
Stephen Bernstein, "Form and Ideology in the Gothic Novel," Essays in Literature 18 (1991): 151-65.
[The] overriding concern of the gothic with the solution in the present of past family crimes, with the assertion expressed in Walpole's "Translator's Preface" to the first edition of Otranto (and borrowed from Exodus), that "the sins of the fathers are visited on their children to the third and forth [sic] generation," is obviously a variation on the plot of Oedipus Rex, and for this reason may seem worthy of little discussion. The explosion of so many such plots in the English novel during the period of the gothic novel, however, suggests that the novels performed an historically specific ideological task, one which it is important (if only to better position the gothic novel historically) to understand. What this form of resolution implies, guaranteeing as it does that justice will be done despite the degree to which the original crime has been obscured and forgotten, is that the power of social stability is stronger than any individual's attempt to transgress it. This in itself was no new topic for fictional works, even in the mid- eighteenth century, but in the gothic it is expressed in such an obsessive manner that the representation signifies a depth of concern with the issue not always apparent in other works where it is treated....
When the gothic narrative structure is seen in conjunction with the Freudian model of neurosis, the leap is not too great to see the genre taking part in the transmission, through popular narrative, of a socially acceptable constitution of the properly integrated subject. This subject formation demands a rectified personal history, guaranteeing social integration only at the point when the skeletons are, indeed, out of the closet. The further assurance is made, of course, that whether the subject exhibits such candor or not, the offensive stain on the past will be made public. Better, it seems, to live in such a way as to give one less to fear from the scrutiny of the anonymous gaze. In this way the gothic promotes what Antonio Gramsci terms an "historically organic" ideology, that is, an ideology such as those which "have a validity which is 'psychological'; they 'organize' human masses, and create the terrain on which men move, acquire consciousness of their position, struggle, etc....
The importance of marriage in this schema cannot be overstated. Not only does movement toward matrimony in the gothic's present trigger the appearance of the buried past, but that buried past itself always contains information tied to the institutions of matrimony or family interest, as noted above. It is in this emphasis that the gothic also articulates concerns regarding class and property, creating a nexus important for further ideological interpretation. ...the operation of the gothic text is to secure in the subject a certain raining in, and acceptance of, the approved path toward ideological interpellation via matrimony. Since marriage was inexorably tied to the movement of property in society, the gothic strives to make palatable the economic truth of the match through its melodramatic emphases on the fitness and rightness of the spouse, the difficulty of courtship, and the purification of the family name....Thus the conjunction of love, sexuality, property, and economic power in the eighteenth-century marriage creates a program ruling out all types of perversion, the offensive behavior constituted equally damningly by either lower class lack of property or the perceived forms of sexual debauchery.
In Otranto Ricardo's false claim on Alfonso's castle is the cause of the later action; it is echoed in Manfred's consuming desire for an heir so that the property can continue in its wrongful transmission, a desire that leads him to seek an all-but-incestuous union with Isabella and to murder his own daughter....[In The Italian,] [a]ll of the plotting against--and imprisonment of--Ellena is founded on the desire of Vivaldi's mother (suggested and inflamed by Schedoni) to keep her son from marrying in a way unbefitting of his class. Property is at the heart of the conflict and motivates Schedoni's turnaround and attempt to renegotiate the marriage when he mistakenly believes that Ellena is his daughter.
The seeming contradiction between the gothic's prohibition of class-violating marriages and the rise in them between middle and upper classes at this time is not as troubling as it first appears. The marriages problematized in the gothic are most often those involving a lower-class participant, someone who can bring no property to the match. The frequent gothic peripeteia of showing that someone with no ostensible status actually possessed it all along (as with the marriages in Radcliffe's works} is actually well suited to middle-class aspirations toward greater status and stability.
In this way the field of power deployed through gothic narrative expands. Where earlier we saw that these novels provided a way of shaping in the subject an acceptance of the futility of criminality due to the precariousness of privacy and the certainty of detection and furthermore posited this realization as "health," we can now observe the way in which the novels extend this surveillance into the micro-social sphere of the family.... The subjectification of the family works in a more publicly oriented way in that it creates two levels of responsibility, the micro-social level of governance within the family, and the macro-social level of the family's relations with the broader society of other families. Through constant reminders of the imbricated status of family, marriage, property, and surveillance, the gothic projects a subject role for the family which then continues to define itself through constant vigilance and an importation into the domestic sphere of the hegemonic tactics of external class reality.
All these aspects of narrative structure have been demonstrated above as interpellating aspects of a dominant ideology of social formation. The ideology of the gothic novel is the legitimation of burgeoning capitalist power, a dark fairy-tale assurance that the propertied, after surviving their troubles, could maintain their ascendancy in terms of political and economic power should correct subject positions, both for individual and family, be assumed. The period experienced, as is well known, the increasing ascendancy of the middle class, so it is here that the utility of a dominant ideology should be sought.