The Gothic genre of literature is one that excites and keeps the audience on edge because of its suspenseful content. It incorporates assortments of dark imagery and a negative mood. These stories most always take different leaps and touch the darkest corners of the human imagination, just to tease the audience. The stories: "The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, "A Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe, and "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, all are types of a Gothic story that take the reader through the journey of selfish human intentions of murder. This happens because each character goes through different circumstances in life. Many literary critics have incorporated in their criticism that in all three of these stories, the main characters are driven by selfish and emotional intent which motivated them to commit premeditated murder.
Human beings are selfish creatures. They hold on to things that make them feel comfortable, safe and loved. When this feeling of security vanishes, one might to go any extent to get it back. In "The Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, Emily, the central character is withdrawn from the world because of her controlling father due to their status in the town. He is the only safety net she ever had and when he died she refused to acknowledge his death and told the towns people that he was not dead. This is the first breakdown in her life which shall lead to her extreme choices. One critic in their analysis mentioned that "In the story, Miss Emily's main character trait is the denial of change. She wrote on 'note paper of an archaic shape' in 'faded ink.' She insists that the Colonel Sartoris, who had been dead almost ten years, will explain why she pays no taxes. She refused for three days to admit that her father is dead. She wants to keep him as she has known him instead of allowing him to return to dust" (Kurtz). As a result of this, Emily is taken further away from her sanity and is desperately looking for someone to take care of her. She isolates herself in the house and rarely came out.
Once Homer Baron is introduce, she seems to be attracted to him and even mentions about getting married. There is a big void in her and he could be the person who might fill it but when Homer mentions that "He is not the marrying type" (319) she decides to take care of it herself. She goes to the "pharmacy and buys arsenic to kill the rat"(318) she said but it was really a preplanned scheme to kill Homer Barron. After he is dead she kept his corpse in the room with her, so that she will regain that sense of lost and that emptiness left by her father's death. In contrast to this idea one critic, Fang Du mentioned in the article" who Makes a Devil out of a fair lady?" that "Emily's killing of Homer is hateful yet pitiful. She is a victim of cruelty and brutality of the southern system and because of Patriarchal chauvinism" (Du, Fang). However, the audience sees that she does indeed planned to kill Homer for her own selfish reasons and poisons him in the end. Faulkner's story ultimately portrays the idea that hoarding things and people for one's own comfort will ultimately drive one insane to a point of murder.
Keeping the mindset of personal comfort, Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado" shows that pride and ego, when threatened, are a good enough reason for murder as well. Montressor, the main character, is eager to get his retribution for all the abuse he had to endure from Fortunato. "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge" (217). Patrick White, in the article "The Cask of Amontillado: A case for the Defense" takes this idea even further and mentions that "In order to understand how Montresor can feel justified in what he has done and be free of any twinge of guilt even fifty years after the event, we must understand how family in general and his own family's motto and coat of arms in particular affect his motivation. Montresor has high regard attitude toward his rights and responsibilities as a member of a noble family. From his point of view, he is acting patriotically, as it were, in seeking vengeance on his family's enemy" (White). This can make it simpler to understand his motives behind this hideous crime but what he did was planned throughout. Poe creates a dark environment and there are thoughtful uses of irony that he uses. The title word includes "cask" which resembles a casket. While at the carnival, Montressor has a black mask which foreshadows his actions which are deceiving and of evil and Fortunato is dressed as a jester. The language used in the story also shows how serious Montressor is about taking his revenge. When he includes how"I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who had done the wrong"(217) he is fully aware that he will not let such an opportunity pass for murdering Fortunato, hence justifying the murder.
Hawthorne's "The Birthmark", depicts how obsession over reaching perfection can lead to murder. Aylmer motivates his wife, Georgiana into removing her birthmark which eventually leads to her dead. The birthmark which is in a shape of a hand represents the flawed character of Aylmer's wife and his inability as a man of science to treat it. The reason why his actions are considered calculated is because he has a "dream last night about the odious hand" (208), he sees it as a failure and still wants to perform the experiment. Aylmer manipulates Georgiana to a point of brainwashing, where she tells him "let the attempt be made at whatever risk. Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mask mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust, life is a burden which I would fling down with joy"(210).
Alfred Reid, a critic takes the idea of obsession into further detail and explains how" The Birthmark has is an indictment of modern science, but the text and modern life both acknowledge the extraordinary achievements of science. Science is not unequivocally evil; it is, however, dangerous in isolation from human society's other influences, including sexuality, work of all kinds, and familial relations. It is dangerous in the speed with which it progresses, an incredible pace far outrunning the cumbersome gait of social and moral change. And it is dangerous when the study of minute details becomes a system of belief, as it is for
Aylmer" (Reid). Aylmer tires to play god and when he knows that he is not able to solve his problem he decides to murder his wife and made it look like an accident.
Whether it is due to society's cruelty or personal inability to understand, murder could be a choice taken by many in an attempt to feel better. It is an extreme measure that many take but nonetheless the choices made are of that of the individuals. Sometimes the murder is intentional, well planned and other times they are of a result of an experiment. In all three of the stories: "The Birthmark", "A Rose for Emily", and "A Cask of Amontillado" the main character, due to their pride, ego and deformity took the lives of others in a twisted manner hence providing the audience with the bitter pleasures of the gothic genre.
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