How does Carter challenge or uphold the readers expectations of a gothic text in the lady of the house of love.
During the course of this essay I am going to explore the expectations we as a reader may have of a gothic text and explore the extent to which Carter challenges or upholds these expectations in the lady of the house of love.
The setting featured in the lady of the house of love suggests that Carter wants to uphold the readers expectations of a gothic text. The house is "derelict and dark" and has been "neglected" by the female vampire that lives within it. The 'dark' setting immediately creates gothic imagery and the building resembles that of Dracula's castle, a widely recognized gothic text. The seemingly abandoned house could relate to the vampires negative feelings toward her inheritance and her negative feelings towards her surroundings. However it could also create a challenge to female repression, a common theme features in Carter's texts, with regards to her view on the traditional housewife role, with Carter presenting an alternative, inverted female role.
There is also religious references featured in the Lady of the house of love, with additional corrupted elements within it. The use of the "bridal gown" could relate again back to the gothic text of Dracula, and the imagery of an anti-Christ figure wearing a wholly outfit emphasises the idea of corruption. Furthermore a bride is traditionally expected to be pure, however the ideas of penetration and the exchange of bodily fluids associated with vampires, strongly infects the idea of wholesomeness and purity. Carter may do this to add a more sinister twist on the theme of religion, whilst maintaining a gothic element within her story, suggesting she intended to uphold the readers expectations of a gothic text.
Another commonly featured idea which is featured throughout gothic texts is that of attraction and revulsion. This is featured in the lady of the house of love with regards to the countess herself and how the soldier reacts to her striking appearance. The countess and her "huge eyes almost broke his heart with their waiflike, lost look; yet he was disturbed, almost repelled, by her extraordinarily fleshy mouth". The fixation on her 'fleshy mouth' could link to Freud's oral fixation theory, whilst also suggesting that he is finding her grotesque and un-appealing, whilst her eyes almost break 'his heart', conflicting his feelings towards her exterior. Carter may use this to rebel against the idea of Mulvey's male gaze, inverting it as the man is intimidated by the female as opposed to objectifying her. This feature of revulsion and attraction largely implies that Carter is continuingly upholding the readers expectations of what we expect of a gothic text during the lady and the house of love.
However during the course of the lady of the house of love the reader becomes aware that there is an idea of role reversal. The 'countess', the female vampire, is the active character, she is also stimulated by a sexual impulse, a lust for men, which is un-commonly featured throughout gothic texts; which for the most part feature strong, hormonal predators with links to a sexual nature. However the 'soldier' is the victim, the passive role, whilst the women is animalistic and predatorial. Carter may do this in order to create equality between men and woman and suggest that women should be free to exploit themselves as sexually as men do. However this is again conflicted by the idea that the countess seemingly does not want her role. She seems disgusted by her lust for men and her vampire nature. Carter may arguably do this in order to imply that women enjoy being the passive character and that men should not be weak.
Overall I would argue that Carter intends to uphold the readers expectations of a gothic text, through the use of religious imagery, setting and the ideas surrounding attraction and revulsion, whilst also presenting conflicting ideas of role reversal which can be interpreted differently depending on the countess and her feelings towards her nature.