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Gothic writing is a tradition that originates from the 18th and 19th century, but it is not limited to it. Many Authors to this day have furthered the writing tradition as founded by writers like Hawthorne, Dickinson, and Poe. This genre has been used by its authors over the years to comment on subjects that matter to them. Traditions and times have influenced gothic elements to evolve with a southern touch. An example of recent works with a southern gothic touch is a fictional work of Daniel Wallace, named the Big Fish. Critically assessing the gothic elements in the Big Fish movie by Tim Burton can further explain the gothic elements in the story and if the discovered elements are compared against some earlier Southern gothic writings. This paper will attempt to analyze the gothic elements traced within the story of Big Fish and also to assess if this contemporary work of gothic fiction meets the standards of an appropriate gothic writing by comparing it to a couple of earlier southern gothic writing.
A Southern Gothic
Tim Burton's Big Fish (2003) has been critically acclaimed as an excellent example of a Sothern gothic fiction. Gothic writing is widely known for the genre's depiction of dark humor and complexity of characters. Not only that this movie depicts a dark and gloomy humor to expose the issues within the society but also the movie has portrayed the characters in a complex manner. Several characters have been seen as broken in their spirit. All of the characters seem to struggle to find their appropriate place in the society. In this manner, the struggle seems to be a perpetual attempt to find out the sense of their existence. Furthermore, the gothic writings are also renowned for the use of supernatural elements. This movie has also made use of ironic events as well as the supernatural elements in several portions of the film. Thus, this work can indeed be acknowledged as a proper work of gothic fiction.
One of the most prominent uses of gothic elements can be comprehended through reviewing how the characters in the movie have been portrayed in a distinct and complex manner in order to create a contrast to the main character and other characters so that the main character is distinctively established (Harris). In this movie, the themes of social acceptance and the issues associated with conformity have been depicted through a number of scenes. In this manner, the novelist as well as the director has succeeded in establishing the main character by making him stand out from others. The second gothic element in this movie is its bizarre setting. Gothic writings are mainly woven around a surprisingly astonishing setting which might not seem to fit the natural way of life (Prendergast). The entire film shows a number of locations that are old and haunted. The settings make an excessive use of black color. Furthermore, it has also been noted that these elements have often been utilized in order to make sure that the portrayal of the characters is done in such a manner so that they look pale, almost lifeless, and beyond the norm characters. The further motivation behind the use of such elements was to enhance the dark undertone which is the very characteristic of gothic writings. Thirdly, both the novel and the film use supernatural elements in various scenes and settings. Supernatural elements can be traced in the film in various instances. For example, there was a woman character who turned into fish in a particular scene (Wallace 67). Furthermore, the twin characters have been viewed as being conjoined but toward the end of the story, the twin became separated. Some other supernatural elements were the presence of the giant, a circus full of strange individuals, the headmaster's portrayal as a wolf during the night (Wallace 31), and The Eye's capacity to predict the death of an individual (Wallace 54).
Contrast and Comparison
In order to assess the appropriateness of the utilization of gothic elements in the Big Fish, it is necessary to compare this literary work with other earlier southern gothic fictions. In this case, this movie/novel will be compared with Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Birthmark and Edgar Alan Poe's Ligeia. It can be found out that the characterization in all of these three works has been formulated in order to make the main character standout from the others. In the Big Fish, the main character Edward resides in a mansion on the top of a slope far from the attachment with the societal spheres and other individuals (Wallace 3). He dresses all in dark and has a pale face making him emerge in an odd route to the general population around him who wear brilliant hues and dresses with bright color. In The Birthmark, Alymer represents the progress and influence of science. He was enormously impacted by his musings of the idea that flawlessness can be formulated by people. In the start of the storyline, the fantasy that Alymer had, which is the evacuation of the skin coloration will be an articulate disappointment and furthermore, by encountering such a large number of disappointments from the expulsion surgeries have foreshadowed that finally, Alymer is as yet not going to be successful (Hawthorne). In any case, Alymer did not mind since he genuinely committed himself to science and have faith in it totally. In any case, shockingly, he was chuckling while Georgiana was going to bite the dust. Since he's getting a charge out of in the short-lived dimension that while Georgiana is biting the dust, after every one of these analyses, she, at last, achieved perfection. In Poe's Ligeia, the complex nature and attributes of the narrator cum central character separate him from the other subordinate characters. The narrator presents the story in an unusual manner with the complex tone; this adds to the characteristics of gothic writing (Poe).
Furthermore, the setting has also served as a gothic element in all of the mentioned pieces of artwork. The setting of Big Fish is gloomy and dark in nature. Furthermore, there are several haunted places and ancient locations illustrated in this work. Hawthorne's The Birthmark has similar kind of strange and freaky setting. The setting of this literary work is in the research center where Aylmer used to work and did the majority of the examinations, and furthermore the boudoir for Georgiana (Hawthorne). The creator depicts the encompassing of the research center, which utilizes a lot of gothic portrayals. Gothic literature's encompassing is for the most part in some place dim and unusual, for example, the author portrays the climate as onerously close and was discolored with vaporous emanation. It likewise depicts the encompassing with bare dividers and blocks asphalt, and it was looking peculiar. By this, one can perceive what really matters to the setting of Gothic Literature, to a great degree odd and miserable environment. Almost similar in nature, the setting of Ligeia is also gray and gloomy. The entire world is depicted as old and decaying; the nature of the setting is ghostly and has a ghastly luster which is evident (Poe).
Finally, regarding the use of supernatural elements or scenarios, these three stories also have some components which are common in nature. In the Big Fish, the presence of the giant, a circus full of strange individuals, the headmaster's portrayal as a wolf during night, and Te Eye's capacity to predict the death of an individual contributed as some of the significant supernatural elements. In The Birthmark, the instance of Georgiana getting The Birthmark from a fairy and the existence of a golden goblet clearly demonstrate the use of supernatural elements. In Poe's Ligeia, the extensive reference to witchcraft, the use of magical elements, the depiction of the ghostly castle, and the supernatural natural hallucination of Ligeia represent the author's use of supernatural elements in a specific manner.
This paper has discussed that Daniel Wallace's novel named Big Fish and the film of the same name indeed have several southern gothic elements. The isolated characterization, the use of gloomy settings, and portrayal of the supernatural effectively contribute to this artwork's establishment as a gothic literature. After comparing this contemporary gothic literary piece with Hawthorne's The Birthmark and Poe's Ligeia, it has been clarified that these three literary pieces share some common, interesting, and significant elements of gothic literature. Therefore, it can be concluded that Big Fish is indeed an acknowledgeable work of gothic literature which appropriately conforms to traditional as well as southern gothic elements.
Harris, Robert. "Elements Of The Gothic Novel". Virtualsalt.Com, 2017, http://www.virtualsalt.com/gothic.htm.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Birthmark By Nathaniel Hawthorne". Online-Literature.Com, 2016, http://www.online-literature.com/poe/125/.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "Ligeia By Edgar Allan Poe - Poestories.Com". Poestories, 2017, http://poestories.com/read/ligeia.
Prendergast, Kathy. "Introduction To The Gothic Tradition". Usask.Ca, 2017, https://www.usask.ca/english/frank/gothtrad.htm.
Wallace, Daniel. Big Fish. London, Pocket Books, 2004.
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