Seven Gothic Tales Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Seven Gothic Tales Analysis

Isak Dinesen

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Seven Gothic Tales Analysis

The word “gothic” in the title does not refer primarily to the medieval gothic tradition, but to its Romantic revival in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, specifically identified in the imagination of Isak Dinesen with Horace Walpole, the author of the gothic novel The Castle of Otranto, and Lord Byron, the great Romantic poet. Seeing this period as the “last great phase of aristocratic culture,” Dinesen has said that she set her tales in the past because it was a finished world, a world that she could easily recompound in her own imagination and one in which her readers would not be tempted to look for realism. As is typical of the gothic romance form, the characters in these stories are less realistic individuals than they are representatives of basic human desires and fears.

Indeed, it is the romance form of Dinesen’s stories that has always drawn readers to them, not the romance associated with the cheap gothic thriller of the romantic melodrama, but the romance of the nineteenth century decadence of Charles Baudelaire and Joris-Karl Huysmans. Dinesen has often been compared with Scheherazade, the mother of all storytellers in The Arabian Nights, because of her fantastic plots and inset stories; but she has also been compared to Henry James for her psychological insight and her careful use of language.

Isak Dinesen is not a feminist writer in any contemporary sense of the word, for the women in her stories are not individuals coping with isolation and attempting integration into a social world that has excluded...

(The entire section is 647 words.)