Gothic Romance

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By D. Downey

This booklet exhibits simply how heavily past due nineteenth-century American women's ghost tales engaged with gadgets reminiscent of photos, mourning paraphernalia, wallpaper and humble household furnishings. that includes uncanny stories from the large urban to the small city and the empty prairie, it bargains a brand new standpoint on an outdated style.

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Extra resources for American Women’s Ghost Stories in the Gilded Age

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The dead female characters in these stories reject the hazardous visual realm by embracing the very material ‘trifles’ in which writers such as Emerson imagined women invested so much emotional energy. The empowering possibilities opened up by remaining an invisible poltergeist rather than a visible ghost are gestured toward in Harriet Prescott Spofford’s ‘The Amber Gods’ (1860), to which Davis’ story appears to pay some homage (especially in the form of the string of eponymous amber beads). The majority of Spofford’s long tale is devoted to describing the adolescence of its narrator, Giorgione Willoughby, affectionately known as Yone, and her orphan cousin, Louise.

20 The fantastic therefore corresponds to the mode of metonymy, in which both terms of a figure are present simultaneously (the apparently impossible event or being, and a potential interpretation that would reveal it to be either figurative or illusory). ’21 Metaphor and allegory implicitly distinguish what is real from what is unreal. If the sun is compared to a great orange ball, the sun is actually there and the ball is not. In metonymy, on the other hand, both objects are ‘real’: for example, a child’s muddied toy lying in the middle of a road is a common device for indicating a fatal traffic accident.

This quasi-autobiographical tale graphically portrays the deleterious effects on a wife and new mother of her failure to recognize that the difficulties she experiences in adjusting to these roles are not unique. Never quite grasping that she belongs to a vast community of women equally trapped by and struggling against the confines of the single-family home, she is further entangled in its snare, to the point of insanity. Positing the wallpaper in her sickroom as offering insight into while obscuring the truth about what happens to women in the home, the story depicts decorative objects not as proof of feminine frivolity, vanity, or superficiality, but as active and malevolent agents in a harmful domestic system, imprisoning women in a gilded cage.

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