Author: Edina Szalay
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Abstract  

Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle is a novel extremely rich in Gothic resonances, making numerous approaches to the Gothicness of the book possible. My analysis will focus on the roots of protagonist Joan Foster’s fascination with the Gothic. What I intend to argue is that, in contrast with most analyses of the novel, the Gothic is present not only in the form of clichs which Joan (wrongfully) imposes on real people and real situations; in fact, it is not by mere chance that Joan turns to writing Costume Gothics in order to satisfy her desire for romance. The roots of her fascination with the genre lie with the two most influential people of her life: her mother Frances Delacourt and her surrogate mother Aunt Lou who educate her early into the female/maternal legacy of Gothic thinking which manifests itself in Joan’s views on all aspects of life: problems of selfhood, personal relationships as well as personal aspirations. Moreover, the fact that the Gothic permeates the lives and thoughts of all the significant female characters of the novel indicates that female existence as a whole is presented by Atwood as essentially and inevitably Gothic. I will pursue this line of argument by first discussing the significance of the two mother figures in Joan’s life as well as the process of Joan’s education into patterns of female existence that bear a striking resemblance to such patterns common enough in the Gothic. I will also show how the creative process of writing her Gothic novels as well as her “Lady Oracle” poems contributes to Joan’s understanding that the bonds that connect her with her mother are primarily bonds of love and not of hate as she thought before, and that under the disguise of apparent differences they do share whatever is essential about womanhood. It is through this realization that Joan can set herself free from the past – by coming to terms with it rather than discarding it – and may, thus, actually start working on her present.

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