FRANKENSTEIN AND WUTHERING HEIGHTS: THE UNRELIABLE MALE NARRATOR AND ANONYMOUS FEMALE AUTHORSHIP IN THE GOTHIC NOVEL
Conventions of nineteenth-century British society restricted the subjects of women’s authorship and biased the reception of women’s writing. By publishing anonymously, or using a male pseudonym, women could evade the gender bias imposed on their literary works. The author’s name, however, was not the only means by which women could influence society’s reception of their works; a male narrator allowed the author not only a male persona, but a male voice through which to convey her writing. This paper will explore the characters of Captain Robert Walton in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Mr. Lockwood in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. As frame narratives, both Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights rely on these characters to shape the entire narrative. Walton and Lockwood enable Shelley and Brontë, respectively, to code their voices as male; publishing without identifying themselves as women allows these writers to further the perception. While comparisons have been drawn between Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights, research has not focused specifically on the male narrators in the text in synonymy with anonymous publication and the combined significance for the Gothic nature of these tales. The framing narrative structure of the novels fittingly accompanies their Gothic genre, which maintains a transgressive quality in its use of uncertainty. As expectations are thwarted and explanations are often withheld, the reader must surrender themselves to the narrative, granting Gothic authors immersive power over their readers. Within Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights, Shelley and Brontë use uncertainty to heighten the fearful nature of their Gothic tales for the reader. The authors create a sense of horror for a readership reliant on gender confines, the realization that such confines are permeable. By depicting their tales through frame narratives and publishing without revealing themselves as women, Shelley and Brontë engage a broader readership of both men and women, increase the freedom of their narrative voice, and heighten the uncertain nature of Gothic tales for the reader. Gothic tales thrive on uncertainty, which Shelley and Brontë then intensify through unreliable narrators and anonymity, leaving the readers uncertain of the authors’ gender.
British Gothic, Female Authorship, Nineteenth Century
Master of Arts (M.A.)