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Gothic genre is commonly characterized with having elements of both horror and romance, where the character experiences physical and psychological terror. Horace Walpole is accredited for the beginning of the gothic genre movement by releasing the novel, The Castle of Otranto, in 1764. Walpole provided a basis for gothic genre in The Castle of Otranto, where medieval romance, ruin and decay, and philosophical elements were demonstrated in his novel. Walpole's works of fiction helped inspire other writers to incorporate a genre of complex plots, paranormal occurrences, and mystical romance. Throughout Eden Robinson's Monkey Beach a gothic genre is revealed in which the main character Lisamarie encounters obstacles such as that of her brothers disappearance, the death of family members, and her ability to see ghost's just to name a few. These underlying themes define Lisa throughout the story and encourage her to not give up the search for her brother.
Gothic literature began due to the Romanticism movement, which became popular during the late 18th and 19th centuries. The word "Gothic" refers to " An architectural style in Northern Europe from early 12th century to 16th, and, as Gothic revival, in 19th century. Thence it is applied to literature and religion to denote the opaquely mysterious and grotesque". (John Bowker) Characters within gothic genre novels typically have their world distorted in some way. Lisamarie's world becomes warped when she is encountered with the disappearance of Jimmy, which influences her to reflect on the past relationship that she once had with her younger brother.
Eden Robinson embarks the reader into a world of mystery instantly when she writes "Six crows sit in our greengage tree. Half-awake, I hear them speak to me in Haisla. La'es, they say La'es, ls'es."(Eden Robinson) Instead of including a description of the setting to the reader at the introduction of the novel, the author wants us to understand the ambiguity behind the story. Shortly into the story Lisamarie discovers that her younger brother, Jimmy has gone missing on a fishing trip. Distraught of their sons disappearance, Lisa's parents decided to be closer to the search so they embark on a journey to Namu. The night before the Queen of the North disappeared, Lisa had a dream that she saw Jimmy at Monkey Beach. Monkey Beach quickly became Jimmy's favorite place to escape to when he was a kid. He enjoyed hearing stories that his dad, Albert, told to him about the B'gwus which is a sasquatch that inhabits Monkey Beach. Albert would often embellish the story of the B'gwus and Ma-ma-oo would become irritated saying "You're telling it wrong."(Eden Robinson,8)The author establishes an environment where story's are exaggerated and told in partial truths. While on a trip to Monkey Beach, Jimmy tries to find this mythical creature with no avail. This adventure to Monkey Beach sparked an interest in Jimmy, one where he would become bonded to the island. The mysterious disappearance of Jimmy is a main theme throughout the story. While the story continues with the search for Jimmy, the narrator provides the reader with flashbacks to the childhood of both Lisa and Jimmy. During these flashbacks we come to understand the strong bond that is forged between brother and sister.
One familiar theme of gothic genre is death. Eden Robinson presents this gothic theme in several different ways. The first technique is the style in which she leaves the audience with the mystery of Jimmy's death so that we can develop our own notion about what might of have happened to Lisamarie's younger brother. The obscurity behind Jimmy's death is not enough for the Eden Robinson, so the author incorporates the gruesome death of Mick and the tragic death of Ma-ma-oo. Mick was a rebellious character, with an ambiguous personality, whom Lisa was first frightened of. Lisa and Mick's admiration towards each other grew throughout the novel into a platonic relationship. While on a fishing trip to check nets, tragedy strikes where Mick is killed and partially eaten by seals. Robinson continues this theme of disfigurement in her story when Lisamarie discovers a dog lying in a ditch and while inspecting it she notices a little man crouching beside her, which we later know is the mythical figure that follows Lisamarie around. Lisamarie wound eventually drag her mom down to the ditch to see the dog where the realized "The flies had found it. Their lazy, contented buzz and their ripe smell of rotting flesh filled the air."(Eden Robsinson,19)Lisa's grandmother suffers a misfortune when her house catches fire and unable to escape Ma-ma-oo dies in the fire. Lisamarie is distraught seeing her grandmother die, expressing "I stood there, my mouth and throat frozen, there were arms around me, people held me and wait for me to cry."(Eden Robinson, 293)Ma-ma-oo was always affectionate and caring towards Lisa, and even possessed the same ability to see ghosts. When Ma-ma-oo dies she said "that she was leaving everything to me"(Robinson, 293) Knowing how frugally Ma-ma-oo lived, Lisamarie believed her inheritance to be minute and was pleasantly surprised when she received 219,800 in settling her estate.
Ghosts and the supernatural are both elements that amplify the horror of a gothic genre. Eden Robinson provides Lisamarie with a "gift", which is an ability to see ghosts. Lisa is haunted by the apparition of a little man whom always appears to Lisa before something bad is about to happen. The first time that Lisamarie encounters the Little man is when she discovers the dog lying in the ditch. After examining the dog Lisamarie hears someone say "tsk-tsked.I looked up, and a little, dark man with bright red hair was crouching beside me."(Robinson,19) Lisamarie often has premonitions in her dreams about what events are going to occur and regularly has a hard time grappling with the struggles in her life. Eden Robinson intensifies the supernatural in her story with the legend of the B'gwus. The sasquatch or B'gwus, was a creature that haunted Monkey Beach and gave the island a bit of ambiguity. Lisamarie and her younger brother, Jimmy first her the story about the B'gwus from their father who would often exaggerate the story. Inspired by the story, Lisamarie believes she had seen the ghost on a trip to Monkey Beach saying "I found him, I found him."
The elements of Gothic genre are spread throughout Eden Robinson's Monkey Beach, which aid the reader in understanding a doom and gloom atmosphere in the story.
JOHN BOWKER. "Gothic."ÂÂ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. 1997.ÂÂ Encyclopedia.com.ÂÂ 19 Oct. 2010<http://www.encyclopedia.com>.