“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.”
~Mitch Albom, For One More Day
Throughout literary history, women have been written into works for the specific purpose of fulfilling “necessary” archetypes and the world of Gothic fiction is no exception. Within the genre, women are portrayed as victims of their very feminine status and are automatic prey due to their sex. While female characters can seemingly satisfy a vast variety of roles outside of this base victimhood, being “presented as objects of desire, maternal figures, supernatural beings and are often defined by their biological roles” (Nabi 1), all interpretations of Gothic women are intended to slot into one of two roles, either as a target or a predator (Nabi), and neither is presented to be a necessarily positive position (given that, as victims, women are blamed for their inability to have any sort of agency and do not appear to hazard any attempts in stopping their trauma or abuse, while as predators, they are blamed for being those that incite chaos and mayhem, or at the very least, gladly stand by to watch the anarchy rain down upon their fellow man). However, even within these two dead-end character classes, there is an even more unpleasant sub-role to fulfill – the mother. While the protagonist of a Gothic text may be a truly evil and irredeemable monster, critics automatically assume that said character was made that way (at least in part) by their family’s influence, namely that of their mother. Regardless of if she falls into the place of the victim or the predator, the mother is to blame for all of the madness of Gothic stories, whether it is because her children were “domesticated not by a mother figure (…), but instead domesticated by [feminized] men” (Beauvais), because she “has her own desires and ambitions” (Biles 1), or is otherwise “dead, imprisoned or somehow abjected” (Anolik 25). Seeing as women are generally the victims of Gothic narratives overall, it is unusual to find that many critics do not necessarily lump maternal figures into the victim category; Ruth Anolik speculates that this is due to the fact “that the figure of the mother exerts social control and order, providing the resistance to deviance that is beneficial to society but detrimental to narrative” (Anolik 27), but the villainization of maternal victims extends past the need to help with a downtrodden protagonist’s narrative. Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, a text widely considered to be the first Gothic novel, set the literary standard for the archetype of the victimized mother in the form of Hippolita. In the face of the death of her own child and tormented by years of abuse at the hands of her husband, she remains compliant and even serves as something of an enabler, to the point that Manfred has no qualms with believing that she will allow him to divorce her so that he may marry Isabella and produce an heir (“Presuming on the unshaken submission of Hippolita, he flattered himself that she would not only acquiesce with patience to a divorce, but would obey, if it was his pleasure, in endeavouring to persuade Isabella to give him her hand” (Walpole 93)). However, in setting up Hippolita as the “maternal Gothic guideline”, Walpole immediately followed the text with a work that featured another maternal role, through she was portrayed in a much harsher light. His depiction of the Countess in a less-than-tender light not only contrasted from Hippolita’s sorrowful victimhood, but her sinful actions within the realm of the play drew the attention of other Gothic writers, leading to the creation of an entirely different trope. Gothic authors lapped up the idea of a motherly monster and critics adored the evil Mommy Dearest, given that “although the good mother is detrimental to narrative advancement, a suitably evil mother can be quite useful in promoting the deviant Gothic plot” (Anolik 28). Yet as much as Gothic writers had drawn inspiration from Walpole’s second Gothic work (and come to cling to the concept of the mother as a source of pain), it cannot be denied that a piece of Hippolita resides in every Gothic mother; while they may be part of the reason for a tale’s horrific narrative, they are still the primary victims to the events of the text, even more so by the fact that they are denied the right to be considered a victim at all. Worse still is the fact that Hippolita’s legacy of victimhood, manifests throughout time and in a variety of manners, from Horace Walpole’s The Mysterious Mother (1768) in the form of the Countess, a woman who attempts to protect those around her from the truth of her own sins, to William Beckford’s Vathek (1786) by Carathis, a mother who’s dedication to her child and stake in her own agency damns her, to Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya; or, the Moor (1806) in the form of Laurina, a woman who is blamed for the abuse that is forced upon her and dies unforgiven by the child she sought to protect.
Horace Walpole’s The Mysterious Mother serves as the ultimate starting point for Gothic mothers who have done wrong. Portrayed initially as a cold, uncaring matriarch, having chosen to hide away in a church and refusing contact with her son, her role as frigid matriarch worsens with the revelation of the sexual relations she instigated unknowingly with her son, thus producing the child she claims is merely her ward. A text famous for its horrifying premise of accidental incest (“The Mysterious Mother is the most disgusting, detestable, vile composition that ever came from the hand of man” (Byron)), it is of no surprise that the Countess is blamed for the sins found in the work. After all, it is her that initiates the relations between herself and Edmund (“Yes, thou polluted son!//Grief, disappointment, opportunity,//Rais’d such a tumult in my madding blood,//I took the damsel’s place; and while thy arms//Twin’d, to thy thinking, round another’s waist,//Hear, hell, and tremble! – thou didst clasp thy mother!” (Walpole Act V, Scene VI, Lines 66-71)) and she is the only character of the text that knows the truth of the encounter, refusing to divulge the truth to others until it is too late to stop Edmund and Adeliza’s marriage (“Did I not couple//Distinctions horrible! plan unnatural rites//To grace my funeral pile, and meet the furies//More innocent than those I leave behind me!” (Walpole Act V, Scene V, Lines 78-81)). This knowledge has led critics to denounce her entirely (“What is disgusting about the play, what is mysterious about the mysterious mother, is the mother’s sexual desire, displaced onto the unknowing son; not the incest, but the deliberate, premeditated nature of the incest on her part” (Clery)). However, the Countess is as much a victim as the rest of cast of characters, not only in the face of the sins she herself was involved in, but also by the actions committed upon her by others. Aware of her wealth and previous status, friars Benedict and Martin formulate a plot to use her grief and apparent guilt to drive her mad, so that they may take her riches for themselves (“Not in solitude.//I nurse her in new horrors, form her tenants//To fancy visions, phantoms; and report them.//She mocks their fond credulity – but trust me,//Her memory retains their colouring.” (Walpole Act I, Scene III, Lines 74-78)), to the point of lying about the death of her son (“Woman, heav’n mocks thee!//On Buda’s plan thy slaughter’d Edmund lies.” (Walpole Act III, Scene III, Lines 56-57)) and sneaking off to marry Edmund and Adeliza behind her back (“The maiden//Is tutor’d to such awe, she ne’er will yield//Consent, should but a frown dart from the Countess. But now, and she enjoin’d your marriage. Better//Profit of that behest—” (Walpole Act IV, Scene VI, Lines 44-48)). The friars, men whose religious affiliation is intended to protect the Countess while under their roof, instead betray her for the sake of selfish gain and the satisfaction of their own morbid curiosity concerning her secret, all while she is attempting to repent for her sin in privacy.
Outside of external involvement, much of the Countess’ victimhood comes from her self-imposed isolation, which leaves to the ultimate punishment of death. She makes the decision to keep her sin entirely to herself, not because she is afraid of what will happen to her reputation if word were to get out about what had happened the night her husband died, but because she does not want Edmund to be faced with the reality of having had sexual relations with his mother or Adeliza to learn that she is the product of an incestuous encounter (“This interval is well – ‘tis thy last boon,//Tremendous Providence! and I will use it//As ‘twere the elixir of descending mercy://Not a drop shall be waste—accept my thanks!//Preserve my reason! and preserve my child! (Walpole Act V, Scene V, Lines 1-5)) and even dies refusing to share the secret with Benedict, not wishing to add a loss of reputation to the awful chaos she has already wrought upon her children (“Follow me to yon gulph, and thou wilt know.//I answer not to man” (Walpole Act V, Scene VII, Lines 7-8)). She surrounds herself with the reminders of her act, by wearing the attire she had worn on the night her husband passed, by raising the product of her sin within the confines of the church, and by removing herself from her son, as to avoid having him find out the truth. However, all of her repentance is for naught and her victimhood grows into a sort of martyrdom; her separation from her son leads him down the path of desperation and he jumps between hatred for her abandoning him without explanation and desire to please her, so that she may welcome her child back to her. In his ignorance and distress, Edmund marries the only person that the Countess seems to hold any regard for, and unknowingly undoes everything his mother had strived to save; she is forced to destroy her children’s innocence anyway and dies knowing that they now must live with the truth of their relationship (“Be that swoon eternal!//Nor let her know the rest—she is thy daughter,//Fruit of that monstrous night!” (Walpole Act V, Scene VI, Lines 73-75)), all because they chose to perceive her as the villain and follow the suggestions of the text’s true monster: Benedict. As the Countess is considered a villain for avoiding her child and refusing to be close to him for fear of sharing parts of herself with him that she did not want divulged, William Beckford’s Vathek considers the opposite end of the spectrum and depicts a mother whose close connection to her child is the source of her ultimate downfall.
Mothers are seemingly willing to do just about anything for the sake of their children (the Countess’ secret-keeping being a prime example) and those that retain their own form of agency are villainized for not giving everything to their maternal role. But what does it mean when agency and motherhood overlap in a Gothic text? William Beckford’s Vathek walks said balancing act in the form of Carathis, the mother and magical conspirator of the Caliph Vathek. Despite her son’s role as the narrative’s protagonist, Carathis is very much her son’s equal and basically the primary source of power in the text. She is not only recognized by her son as a woman of high intelligence (“for the Caliph not only loved her as a mother but respected her as a person of superior genius” (Beckford 15)), but she is his source of supernatural information (“Bababalouk, whose olfactory nerves were more familiarized to magical odours, readily conjecturing that Carathis was engaged in her favorite amusements, strenuously exhorted them not to be alarmed” (Beckford 46)) and assists him with the various rituals that must be completed in order to garner the ability to enter the “palace of subterranean fire” (Beckford 33) (“Carathis, whose presence of mind never forsook her, perceiving that she had carcases sufficient to complete her oblation, commanded the chains to be stretched across the staircase, and the iron doors barricaded, that no more might come up. No sooner were these orders obeyed, than the tower shook; the dead bodies vanished in the flames; which at once changed from a swarthy crimson to a bright rose colour. (…) Carathis, in transports, anticipated the success of her enterprise” (Beckford 48)). However, like Vathek himself, she is widely disliked by the characters of the text (“Nor did he know well what to this of Carathis, who is like a chamelion could assume all possible colours. Her cursed eloquence had often driven the poor Mussulman to his last shifts. He considered, however, that if she possessed but few good qualities, her son had still fewer, and that the alternative, on the whole, would be in her favour” (Beckford 51)) and outside of her personality traits, her apparent equality to her Caliph son is reason enough for critics to dislike her (“Vathek’s mother, Carathis, is an ironic parody of the mother-figure in the traditional romance. Her wisdom is in the form of knowledge of the occult and her advice is accompanied by a domineering that Vathek finds impossible to resist. When Vathek strays, she places him firmly on the true path, the path which leads ultimately to his damnation (…) Had Carathis not asserted her violent powers of leadership, Vathek might have devoted himself indefinitely to the enjoyment of Nouronihar’s charms and escaped the damnation he suffered” (Graham 52)); after all, a woman of such unique power should be able to recognize that her son’s desperate pleas for dominion are selfish and malevolent, right? All she is doing is babying a monster (“When Vathek falls ill or into a fit of passion, it is only Carathis that is able to assuage or comfort him. She treats him as a child, tucking him into bed and sitting with him until he was composed enough to rest” (Biles 2-3)) and giving into the whims of a twisted ruler that is doomed to pull others into his suffering, thus developing her own perverse form of greed reliant on a “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” mentality.
However, one must remember that greed and desperation to help one’s self is prominent in many of the characters in Beckford’s text, from The Giaour, as he demands the sacrifice of the fifty children in the first place and is the one to set Vathek on his path to damnation (“’Would’st thou devote thyself to me? adore then the terrestrial influences, and abjure Mahomet. On these conditions I will bring thee to the palace of subterranean fire: there shalt thou behold, in immense depositories, the treasures which the stars have promised thee, and which will be conferred by those intelligences whom thou shalt thus render propitious’” (Beckford 33)), to Nouronihar, as she remains compliant with Vathek’s plans to kidnap her fiancé and his choice to go with damnation and power over repentance (“Nouronihar, whose impatience, if possible, exceeded his own, importuned him to hasten his march, and lavished on him a thousand caresses, to beguile all reflection. She fancied herself already more potent than Balkis; and pictured to her imagination the Genii falling prostrate at the foot of her throne” (Beckford 133-134)). But what separates Carathis’ greed from the greed of others’ is the order of self. Instead of helping Vathek with his attempts to gain power with the intent of ensuring he would play into her desires once said power was obtained, her acts of magic and occult craft are carried out as a personal method of agency, with the beneficial effect of helping her son with his plots. After all, she is shown to have been involved in witchcraft prior to the involvement of the Giaour (“Judicial astrology was one of those systems in which Carathis was a perfect adept” (Beckford 15)) and outside of her one moment of reluctance to kick the Giaour when he is turned into a ball (Beckford 29), everything she does is done out of utter love and devotion for her son; “When he is ill she devotes herself entirely to finding some restorative cure for him, and grieves when he is in pain. She protects him from the angry mob that seeks to destroy Vathek for murdering civilian sons and keeps an eye on the stars to watch for danger coming his way” (Biles 3). Her supernatural abilities are her own and are rooted in agency, rather than greed, just as the enactment of said abilities are rooted in the maternal desire to help her son achieve his desire for power. She is even safe from eternal damnation at the end of the novel (suggesting that her actions over the course of the text are not on the same level of sin as those of Vathek, as her actions were out of independence and love rather than selfishness), but (despite knowing the risks), chooses to join her son in suffering (“Carathis paused for a moment with surprise, but, resolved to follow the advice of Eblis, she assembled all the choirs of Genii, and all the Dives, to pay her homage. Thus marched she in triumph through a vapour of perfumes, amidst the acclamations of all the malignant spirits; with most of whom she had formed a previous acquaintance. (…) Instantaneously, the haughty forehead of the intrepid princess became corrugated with agony; she uttered a tremendous yell, and fixed—no more to be withdrawn—her right hand upon her heart, which was become a receptacle of eternal fire” (Beckford 149)), thus mirroring the punishment of the Countess (The Mysterious Mother), as she too has a punishment bestowed upon her that is beyond what is appropriate for the crime of doing the best that one can to help their child. The contrast accentuates the reality that there truly is no “right answer” in regards to maternal influence in a Gothic text; separation and distance from one’s child (even if it is out of the desire to keep said child from learning a horrific truth) makes one a neglectful mother, while too much involvement and harboring the desire to assist and be with one’s child is perceived as obsessive and selfish. Similar to the blame Carathis carries for the traits and behaviors of Vathek (“Despite being a grown man, Vathek frequently displays childish behaviors like demands for food from his mother and fits of rage or wrath when he doesn’t get his way. Spoiled by his position and his adoring mother, Vathek is unable to provide for himself, even in the most basic sense” (Biles 2), Charlotte Dacre produces a maternal figure that harbors the responsibility of her daughter’s evil, despite the presence of a literal demonic influence, proclaiming and emphasizing the vilification of Gothic mothers overall.
The Countess of The Mysterious Mother enacted her punishment of isolation out of the desire to protect her son. Carathis of Vathek performed her magical rituals for the sake of helping her son obtain the powers he desired. Both mothers are harped upon by critics for their actions, suggesting that their choice to carry out these exploits in self-isolation and ritualistic murder for the sake of their children is what makes them terrible mother. Yet Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya; or, the Moor presents a maternal figure that utterly torn apart by critics, far more than the Countess and Carathis combined, for doing the opposite – for doing what she believes to be best for her, rather than what is best for her child.
Zofloya; or, the Moor’s Laurina di Loredani is blamed for the events of the novel from the very start, as her family’s bliss is “destroyed” when she “succumbs to the importuning devotion of a scheming lover” (Haggerty 166). By allowing herself to get swept away in an affair, she ultimately invites the murder of her ex-husband (“The count, calm; and self-collected, parried with hellish dexterity his indiscriminate attempts; but receiving, at length, the point of his adversary’s stiletto in his shoulder, he suffered an impulse of rage to nerve his hand; and, retreating for an instant, then furiously advanced, and plunged his dagger to the hilt in the breast of the unfortunate Loredani. Thus did he become the murderer of the husband, as he had been already the seducer of his wife; and his guilt, at the far of Heaven, assumed a dye seven times deeper than before” (Dacre 50)), causes her son to “rush from his home, and never since returning” (Dacre 48), fall in Megalena (“Three months had now elapsed since Leonardo, fatally for himself, had become known to the syren Megalena (…) she had bewitched and enslaved his heart, she had awakened his soul to new existence” (Dacre 123)), and commit suicide (“The guards hastened to seize the frantic Leonardo, but, breaking with the strength of madness from their grasp, he fled to the extremity of the cavern, and before he could be again secured, had given himself repeated wounds with the poignard” (Dacre 251), and, most brutally, initiates Victoria’s fall from grace that causes her to take up with Zofloya (“Victoria stretched forth her hand to receive it; when, as she did so, a thorn ran deep into one of her fingers, and the blood issued in a large drop. Zofloya, apparent consternation, opened his vest and, tearing some linen from his bosom cast himself upon his knees, and applied it with trembling eagerness to the wound. Victoria felt too surprised—almost gratified—to repulse him, and the Moor continued, unchecked, to press the blood from her finger, and to absorb it with the linen; as it flowed (Dacre 154), poison Berenza (“’This paper contains one of the most subtile and delicate poisons that ever, by the hand of art, could be composed’ (…) Victoria stretched forth her hand, and took the paper—for a moment she was silent, and then said—— ‘This, then, is for Berenza’” (Dacre 161)), sexually assault Henriquez through deception (thus leading to his suicide) (“Real madness now seized the brain of the wretched Henriquez—his eye-balls, bursting almost from their sockets, furiously rolled, till he could gaze no longer.—A frantic cry escaped his lips—it was the inarticulate name of Lilla; as springing, a raging maniac, from the bed, he snatched a sword that hung on the opposite wall, and, dashing its hilt on the floor, threw himself, in desperate agony, upon its point!—Exposed, defenceless as he was, it entered instantly his beating breast, and he sunk to the ground bathed in his purple gore!” (Dacre 217), murder Lilla (“With her poignard she stabbed her in the bosom, in the shoulder, and other parts,—the expiring Lilla sank upon her knees—Victoria pursued her blows—she covered her fair body with innumerable wounds, then dashed her head-long over the edge of the steep” (Dacre 220)), and end up slaughtered by Satan for putting her trust in him in the first place (“As he spoke, he grasped more firmly the neck of the wretched Victoria—with one push he whirled her headlong down the dreadful abyss!—as she fell, his loud demoniac laugh, his yells of triumph, echoed in her ears, and a mangled corse, she was received into the foaming waters below!” (Dacre 254)); all of which seems excessive to use as guilt fodder for a mother’s extramarital affair. Surely the entire novel could not be Laurina’s fault? Yet critics seem to believe that all of the text’s chaos is reliant on her single moment of agency, going as far as to say that “the bad example set by [Victoria’s] mother is repeatedly cited by the narrator as the cause of Victoria’s ‘love of evil’” (Craciun 147), that she “is the primary cause of the unfortunate events that follow [her running off with her seducer]” (Anolik 28), and that Victoria is “tainted and defined by her mother’s sexual transgression” (Zigarovich 82). Even author says “Either we must suppose that the love of evil is born with us (which would be an insult to the Deity), or we must attribute them (as appears more consonant with reason) to the suggestions of infernal influence” (Dacre 255); the vagueness of Dacre’s final statement places Laurina on the same plane as Zofloya, suggesting that because Laurina’s infidelity was the apparent initiating event of the novel (therefore causing Victoria’s relationship with Zofloya and everything she had done since knowing him), she is as bad as the literal Devil. All of the guilt pushed upon her surrounds her sexuality (similar to The Mysterious Mother’s Countess), which mirrors a form of agency, emphasizing that a woman should not have control of her sexuality or herself, period (this is only advanced when one realizes that much of the chaos that surrounds Victoria comes with events in which she attempts to control her sexuality, such her decision to sexually deceive Henriquez (“Hastily returning at the further end of the room, remote from the pensive Henriquez, she prepared his mixture, and infused the drug given her by Zofloya. Approaching him then, with hand rendered unsteady from ravishing anticipation of the effects it would produce; she tendered it to him” (Dacre 213))). Could critics be correct in that female sexuality and agency, especially in the case of a maternal figure, is the primary cause of turmoil in Gothic texts?
There are other matters that must be considered first. For one, the primary “victim” of Laurina’s crime is not the least bit innocent. Ignoring the harsh reality that the trauma of one’s mother’s extramarital affair does not equate to multiple murder, Dacre states from the start that Victoria, while as “beautiful and accomplished as an angel, was proud, haughty, and self-sufficient – of a wild, ardent, and irrepressible spirit, indifferent to reproof, careless of censure – of an implacable, revengeful, and cruel nature, and [was] bent upon gaining the ascendancy in whatever she engaged” (Dacre 40). Victoria, by being perceived as an inherently stubborn and uncaring individual, is already doomed to fall from grace, regardless of what the initiating event was. Critics, by deciding that Laurina’s affair with Ardolph is the exclusive reason for Victoria’s turn to darkness, are giving Laurina far too much credit and Victoria not nearly enough. Furthermore, one must encapsulate everything that Laurina faces over the course of the text. In her marriage to Loredani, Laurina is treated like a trophy, as her husband loved “to see her followed and admired”, as it “yielded to his heart a pleasure exquisite and refined” (Dacre 40); he enjoyed showing her off at various events, just for the purpose of presenting her like a property earned. From there, she finds what she believes to be true affection in Ardolph, but she is really only a pawn in his “savage delight to intercept the happiness of wedded love—to wean from an adoring husband the regards of a pure and faithful wife” (Dacre 43), thus to her attempt to remove herself from an unloving and indifferent marriage results in her entering an abusive one. Characters in the text (“’Signora,’ replied Berenza, with a disdainful smile, ‘you are indeed well qualified to arraign those who trample on the rights of hospitality!’ (Dacre 61)), and critics (“[Victoria’s] mother becomes her chief antagonist and the model for her own hideous fall” (Haggerty 167)) continuously blame Laurina for being a terrible mother, but every time she tries to rectify her wrongs, her attempts are ignored (“’Oh, my child! my child!’ cried the distracted mother, sinking under the overpowering excess of remorseful anguish, ‘wouldst thou indeed abandon me?’” (Dacre 61)) or stopped (such as in the case of her telling Ardolph that, after she denied Victoria’s desire to leave with Berenza, she was going to take Victoria and leave, only for the man to coerce her to stay and carry out the plot of stowing Victoria away with her aunt and lying to Berenza (Dacre 63-64)), thus she is never allowed the chance to be a better mother. The manipulation she faces is revealed to have worsened by the end of the text, as not only has the years of unhappiness worn upon her looks, one of the only things she had not been brutalized for (“Grief had stolen the roses from the cheeks of Laurina, remorse had faded her graceful form—she was no longer an object of triumph or of envy, to exhibit to the worthless ephemera of the day, and she was reproached with her broken charms” (Dacre 243)), but the full extent of Ardolph’s abuse is revealed (“The gay, the infamous seducer became weary of his acquisition; by degrees he absented himself from her for lengthened periods,—mirthful and joyous when away, he returned to her gloomy and severe.—Next, frequent infidelities struck the barbed arrow of despised love into her soul—Bitter reproaches, and at length personal ill treatment, even to a degree of barbarity, closed the list of her outrages, and filled up the measure of her punishment and misery!” (Dacre 243-244)). She has lost everything; her first husband, her children, her reputation, her looks, her safety, and her second husband. All of it has been taken, simply because she wished for someone to care about her outside of presenting her like a prize that had been won. She has nothing. Even on her death bed, she is denied her one desire for a final time; “By what chance do I behold thee?—but no matter—I have not time to ask,——forgive—forgive me!” (Dacre 245) She pleads to her child for compassion and understanding, feeling that Victoria was the one that she hurt the most, the one she had tried to apologize to so many times, the one she left behind in favor of staying with a man that abused her. And in her mother’s final moment, Victoria’s truly evil nature rears its head again, unleashing her resentment as her mother dies, knowing she perish without forgiveness and the belief that everything Victoria had done is her fault (“’Hah!—that is the very point,’ exclaimed Victoria, with a wild frightful laugh,—’that which I have been, my mother made me!—Mother,’ she pursued, addressing the anguished Laurina— ‘why did’st thou desert thy children, to follow the seducer, who hath justly rewarded thee?—’Tis thou who has: caused my ruin; on thy head, therefore, will my sins be numbered. Can I—oh can I reflect upon my deeds of horror, without arraigning thee as the primary cause?— thou taughtest me to give the reins to lawless passion,—or that I dishonoured my husband?—caused the death of his brother, and murdered a defenceless orphan!—For these crimes—all, all say, rising out of my example, I am now a despised exile in the midst of robbers—of robbers, of whom the noble son who supports thee in his arms is Chief!— for this—‘” (Dacre 246)). Can such an abusive lifetime (and even moment of death) be considered suitable punishment for the crime of infidelity? By comparison of the crimes of Victoria and her own final moment, there is no way that such grief and regret fair to Laurina for her single, failed attempt at pursuing a relationship that would allow her to be loved, rather than exclusively looked at.
Victimhood is basically a necessity for Gothic texts; from Edmund and Adeliza being the victims of the Countess’ secret in Horace Walpole’s The Mysterious Mother to Vathek being a victim to Carathis’ influence and the Giaour’s plot in William Beckford’s Vathek to Victoria being the victim of influence by the demonic Zofloya after being traumatized by Laurina’s affair in Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya; or, the Moor. But while all of these texts focus on the victimization of their heroes and heroines, they simultaneously make their maternal characters into motives for their primary characters’ poor behavior. And, in doing so, these mothers become victims to their roles. As mothers, they are destined to be the scapegoats for bad behavior, their own victimhood is laid to waste and forgotten by critics in favor of being seen as the creators of protagonists and problems.
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Delaney Burk grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and just completed their degree in English with a Creative Writing focus at Virginia Commonwealth University. Delaney has been previously published in Pwatem, Amendment, Crab Fat Magazine, From Whispers to Roars, and Cleaning Up Glitter Literary Magazine. Delaney is slated to be published in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Auctus, and loves to explore a variety of genres and formats, especially the combination of comedy and horror.