What are basic boundaries and oppositions that are blurred by the Gothic?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gothic literature is known for blurring the boundaries between the natural and supernatural, real life and the life of dreams.  Ordinary objects take on a supernatural quality in Gothic stories, and rational events are overshadowed with ominous portents.  Here is an example from Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher:

  • "...upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveler upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil."

The oppositions highlighted and blurred by Gothic literature mostly revolve around good and evil.  One of the most famous pieces of Gothic Lit is Jekyll and Hyde, the story of one man with two alternate personalities - the studious and intellectual vs. the violent and instinctual.  Many of the gothic stories studied these opposite characteristics and suggested that there is little separating the one from the other.  Here is a quote on that from Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho:

  • "...and since our sense of evil is, I fear, more acute than our sense of good, we become the victims of our feelings, unless we can in some degree command them."