American gothic literature

The storyline of "The Black Cat" is a first-person account of horrifying incidents. The beginning of Poe's tale focuses on the peaceful, devoted spouse and lifelong animal lover who adopted a black cat as a pet and gave it the name Pluto. But after rebelling and drinking alcohol, he eventually turned into a monstrous and murderous creature, and he was constantly overcome by remorse. It is impossible to avoid the symbolism and allegories this story includes while reading it. The story is merely a depiction of racism and slavery mainly indicated by the master and slave relationship portrayed by the master and the black cat in this scenario.

There is a clear comparison of the cat and slave behavior, in the sense that they were occasionally running away. The reason for the slave running away was similar to that of the cat of running away from cruelty. Like slaves, initially the cat was a very faithful companion but after it was seized and one of the eyes gouged it became very petrified and uncomfortable around the master. Similarly, the slaves after they were ill-treated by the masters tried to escape despite previously enjoying a cordial and faithful relations.

The story also highlights the dimension of man being superior to women and the black cats. This can be regarded as the white man’s psychology of power over the other creatures and a sense of rebellion. The man commits gruesome acts of brutality to the cat and murders his wife as she tries to get in his way of axing the second cat. Eventually, the author is overwhelmed with guilt after his past violent behaviors this is especially after he observes the white patch which rather than white dominance symbolizes the guilt.


The author of this story portrays the dynamics and complex nature of the relations encountered in racism. The black cat denotes the black slaves and their relationship with their masters which goes from better to a worse state over time.

1. Briefly describe the Richard Wright episode. What does it show?

The episode talks of the thrilling tales of horror that are not related to reality based on the readings of gothic literature. The gothic stories rather than acting as venues for readers fantasies they were entirely connected to the culture involved in their productions.

2. What are the three lessons Goddu draws from this episode?

First, there is need for gothic studies to be historicized since reading it of cultural context is out of proportion. Secondly, even when the gothic and cultural contexts differ they still should be continuous. Finally, there is an indication of how historical contexts can be incorporated in gothic terms.

3. What is the aim of Goddu’s study? How does it differ from previous visions of the gothic?

The entire study aims to highlights the relevance and importance of gothic readings in historical representation. This is contrary to its previous aims of diverging the readers to a fantasy world or an escapism from reality.

4. According to Goddu, what is the link between American gothic and European gothic? The well-established European serves as a focal point for readers seeking to locate the American gothic which is less identifiable. Therefore, readers start with the European version in order to relate easily with the American one.

5. What are the four factors that contribute to the uncertain status of American gothic?

The American gothic is less specifiable in terms of time period and group of authors unlike the European one

It consists of a less coherent sets of conventions since it consists of other literarily forms and also embraced native forms.

It is oddly elusive since there has been critics and difficulty in defining the essence of gothic.

A fear of contagion due to the critic desire for a classification and clarity.

6. What is the feature British and American gothic share?

They are both oddly elusive, it is not easy or one cannot clearly identify the gothic “essence” in both despite their formulaic and convectional nature.

7. Why do critics still seek to categorize the gothic?

Critics want to know where gothic ranks in canon hierarchy. They feel the desire to know the particular essence of the gothic rather than the need to differentiate one gothic from another.

8. Why is this especially true in American literature?

American scholars have a tendency of isolating the gothic from its high literary forms especially in its literature. This is mainly attributed to historical belatedness but critics however, have provided the American canon with reputable foundation despite being considered an embarrassing gothic fiction by some.

9. What are the two terms used in American literature to define texts that can in fact be defined as gothic? What are the problems with those terms?

Areas of romance dominate the American literature and a term such as gothic is almost suppressed. Gothic is substituted for a broader generic term as the usage of melodrama ensures gothic is used for its limited meaning. The meaning associated with gothic terms in American literature may be different.

10. Why does she want to resurrect the gothic as a critical term in American literary studies?

What does she hope to achieve? She wants to destabilize the traditional readings of American literature canon that has been concealed by romance. With this she wanted to appreciate earlier others and show how gothic had gained access on Americas literature,

How does Poe question the very status of his text? Quote two sentences that show this. What is the function of this questioning? During the adventure period he had not recorded the events in a journal and he feared he may not have them in memory. He did not trust his abilities as a writer.” I feared I should not be able to write, from mere memory, a statement so minute and connected as to have the appearance of that truth it would really possess, barring only the natural and unavoidable exaggeration to which all of us are prone when detailing events which have had powerful influence in exciting the imaginative faculties.” “A distrust in my own abilities as a writer was, nevertheless, one of the principal causes which prevented me from complying with the suggestions of my advisers.”

Describe the corpse of Rogers. What is significant about it?

The stomach had greatly swelled, his hands were also swollen, and his face contracted, withered and with a chalky white appearance and presence of three red blotches was visible. The nature of the corpse indicated the terror he underwent before his death. The bodies of both Rodgers and Allan were held by the walls. The way Pym disguises himself is very detailed as he uses Rogers’s shirt and utilizes the stomach to portray the swollen stomach.

How does the Dutch ship first appear?

The head of the ship which is described by the narrator as a tawdry gilt figure is visible and has a large hermaphrodite brig.

What about the “spectacle” on the deck? Comment on the bodies and the way they are described. What is striking?

The bodies were scattered disgusting form of decomposition. What was clear is there was no visible living soul on that fated vessel.

The color white is associated to both positive and negative elements at the end of this passage. Show this. What about Pym perceptions? Are they reliable or not? What conclusions can you draw?

The carcass of the white animal was picked by the sea, however, nothing white was to be found at Tsalal. Pym believed the island could be found when a different approach on the chasms was undertaken. This highlights that even though the whites may be perceived in a negative manner they steel possess a positive outlook.

Reformulate in your own words Morrison’s main argument. Find ONE quote that you think illustrates her ideas best.

Morrison reflects on the perception of inequality and the superiority of the whites over the blacks. This type of influence greatly impacted on the perception of the roles of the whites on the world and eventually on literature. Slavery not only affected those caught up on it but also the self-image of those who enslaved. It created a desire to be on top of the hierachy and have control hence a need to exert power in order to appear powerful. This stressed on personal power and it therefore portrays the American literature.

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