The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Body as a Site of Horror in Gothic Fiction College

‘Our experience of the world is through the transitory experience of embodiment’.[1] This statement by Marie Mulvey-Roberts exemplifies as to why the body is so prevalent when horror is depicted in the gothic; we exist only within our bodies and preservation of that body is key to our survival, and that body being compromised becomes the ultimate horror. Both terror and horror are key components to the gothic. Terror is fright, and the fear of what could be, whilst horror is terror becoming actualized. More specifically, terror seems to relate to the threat of damage to the body whilst horror is that corporeal threat being realized; in the form of damage caused by violence or illness, or even the evolutionary loss of the human body as we know it. This essay explores the idea that the response of horror when faced with the transgressed body is rooted in either a fear of death or the loss of humankind as a whole.

Pain infliction, as well as subsequent gore, is a common theme used to convey horror in gothic fiction. This trope becomes horrific due to the suggestion of our corporeal vessel being compromised and the corresponding implications. The further the body is beaten through violence, the further it resembles a corpse; a...

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