The Other I

November 24, 2014

Gothic fears

I’ve never been particularly taken with Gothic monsters like Frankenstein or vampires like Dracula, nor did I understand why mature men and women wrote or enjoyed reading these kind of fantastical stories.

But I’m beginning to understand.  The Gothic revival that produced these Gothic fantasies emerged during the Industrial Revolution when it was glaringly apparent that the old ways were disappearing.  People were moving off the farms and into often wretched hovels in the city to work in factories in which lives were at risk, hours long and for which there were few safeguards.  If your arm was cut off in a spinning wheel, or your legs smashed in a mining accident, there was no recompense.  There wasn’t even anything resembling disability payments or unemployment compensation.

Technology and science were drastically changing the world, and for huge numbers, it seemed to be producing a machine that was grinding inexorably to destroy human society as we know it.

And that’s what Dracula was – a metaphor of an economic system run amok, draining the life blood of the very people who fed it.  That is what Frankenstein was – a terrible invention of science stalking the lives of ordinary people without consideration of any kind.

The interesting thing is that these Gothic monsters still stalk us.  In metaphorical terms they appear, most blatantly, in science fiction novels and movies.  They are terrible creatures of evil from another universe totally without kindness, seeking only power.

What are these modern Gothic monsters really for those of us living in the 21st century?

For some it is climate change and the destruction of our home planet Earth.  For some it is capitalism, or immigration, terrorism, or the horrifying tools of modern militaries.  For some it is materialism, or sexual liberation, or the unstoppable spread of a deadly virus sweeping around the globe.  For some it is an Apocalypse sent forth by an angry God.

Perhaps our Gothic metaphors are a way of trying to deal with these very real fears.  Perhaps they are a way of disguising them to ourselves, or ways of convincing ourselves that our fears, like the metaphors, are fantastical.

However we deal with them, I now see that they arise from deep within the human psyche.  And I can see why they grow so strong in times of turmoil and uncertainty.

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6 Comments »

  1. These are ‘Raakshasas’ in our mythology and they are/were plenty of them around.

    It is another thing that these guys are as much the creation of God as the rest, as part of the Great Drama.
    .

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    Comment by tskraghu — November 25, 2014 @ 2:20 am | Reply

    • Ah, I never thought of that! The Rakshasas of Hindusm (and Buddhism?) impress me as a sort of cross between the Fallen Angels (ie, devils) of Judeo-Christian religious thought and Frankenstein. Along those lines, wouldn’t it be interesting to compare the metaphors of both good and bad as they appear in the many religions of the world? Maybe somebody already has?

      On Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 2:20 AM, The Other I wrote:

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — November 25, 2014 @ 4:48 pm | Reply

  2. These stories take us back to our ‘Pagan’ past. A past before organised coercion, fear and the control of the many by the few. The Temple of Mithras, was a Roman temple whose ruins were discovered in Walbrook, a street in the City of London, during rebuilding work in 1954. It is perhaps the most famous of all twentieth-century Roman discoveries in the City of London. At the age of 12 I began to question the world around me. At 20 I saw no difference between the various religious and political indoctrinations across large swathes of our planet. I still don’t. Echoes from the past continue in written stories – The Daleks for instance not only represented Nazi lust for world domination but foretold, like Orwell, the genesis of a greater evil sweeping the planet. The malware Regin is not from Zeus and his cohorts it is manmade. If it were in a Sci Fi story – no one would believe it. Would they?

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    Comment by lairdglencairn — November 25, 2014 @ 8:11 am | Reply

    • I didn’t know about the Temple of Mithras in London. I’ve now given myself a brief review of the people’s beliefs and practices, and hope to visit there the next time we are in London. Obviously I don’t agree with most of these ancient beliefs, but I am a little slower these days to call them “superstitious.” How many of them are due to lack of the kind of information we have today? And how many of so many modern beliefs may look superstitious to future generations.

      I do agree with your main point — religious and cultural traditions so often share similar concerns, and similar attempts to convince the general population of the “elevated goals” of those in power. And I also agree that some of the catastrophes sweeping our planet today would have sounded like a Sci Fi story not very long ago.

      On Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 8:11 AM, The Other I wrote:

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — November 25, 2014 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  3. Once again, you’ve caught me with a half formed thought from years ago… Maybe I’ll have to blog on the Gothic soon…
    Fangs for the memory, as it were…

    Like

    Comment by sanstorm — November 25, 2014 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

    • I look forward to it. Don’t forget! Terry

      On Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 8:38 PM, The Other I wrote:

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — November 25, 2014 @ 8:58 pm | Reply


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