Gothic Doppelgangers --
Throughout Gothic fiction there are numerous characters who exist with another side to them. It is not so much a split personality, where neither side are aware of each other, but rather one personality exists as a mask for the other, often more darker side. Such characters become their own doppelganger in a sense, as they appear to be the same person but act in very different ways. From story to story, though the characters may change, the basic nature of the two sides remains consistent, building up what could be considered typical "good" or light side and a "bad" or dark side in the set of doubles. It is this image of the duality of humans that is created throughout the literature that the site looks at and identifies some of the traits shown by each side in several examples picked from different ages of Gothic Literature.
The opening page brings the user to a hallway with a beginning look at some of the traits, such as aggressive versus submissive behaviors, and the sense of good and evil that each side puts forth. The black background and red text creates a strong contrast without being opposite colors, just the like the two sides of a doppelganger are not exact opposites. There are five doors in the hallway which lead into parts of the site. These doors draw the user in like the histories and personal stories of the characters draw the reader into the novel or story. The doors act as a gateway into the private life of the character where the two sides are looked at. Inside each room, there is a background with its mirrored image to reflect the duality of the doppelganger. At the top is also a short paragraph, which when all are read together create a short essay, and link to the next page so that the user can follow in order, or they can click "back' and choose rooms at random to draw their own conclusion.
In the first room the user is presented with Matilda and Rosario from Matthew Lewis' The Monk. The background of the page is a mirrored image of an abbey cell to reflect on the life and location of where Rosario and Matilda spent most of the story. These two personalities present the aggressive and submissive sides of the doppelganger. Rosario, who is the male persona created by Matilda to get into the Abbey, acts in a quiet simple manner only wanting to be near Ambrosio, who is his teacher. Rosario, is in fact, a mask for Matilda, but he is also the first look at the lighter side of the doppelganger. In later light sides, the same traits of submissiveness and mask-like qualities are seen. Matilda on the other hand is very commanding and assertive with what she wants. She becomes domineering and represents the dark side, which also happens to be the character's true nature. In the room, the user is able to click on objects, such as Matilda and her mirror and Rosario and his bible to read quotes from the book which show the nature of each side.
The second room also contains a set of characters from The Monk. They can be seen as the source of evil in the story and are Lucifer and Satan, the former being the lighter side and the latter being the dark, and again true, side of the character. For this room the background is from a catacomb similar to when Lucifer is first introduced in the underground tombs. Once again, Lucifer is a submissive character, allowing Matilda to control him. When he appears in the catacombs, Lucifer appears as a beautiful youth to gain Ambrosio's trust, though it's not his true self, so again he is like the mask Rosario. But he also puts for a sense of false good when he supplies help to Ambrosio to get Antonia. He also presents the first idea of the light side as being beautiful, though hollow and fake, and Satan brings the image of the dark side as being monstrous in appearance. And when Satan appears in the end of the book to Ambrosio, he is demanding and aggressive and an image of "true' evil, threatening Ambrosio with torture and death if he doesn't sign his soul over to Satan. Again, the room contains objects for the user to click on to gain quotes, however instead of two separate icons for Lucifer and Satan, such as what Matilda and Rosario had, there is one figure that is spit down the middle so that each side of the person becomes the link to quotes about the two different sides.
The third room looks at Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Robert Lewis Stevenson's book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For this room the background is a victorian library with windows added in because of the importance that day and night play in the book for when Jekyll or Hyde are active. This set of doppelgangers is different from the first two in that the two sides do become separate personalities after awhile and that Dr. Jekyll was not a mask for Mr. Hyde until after Hyde became powerful enough to control the body they shared. The characteristics added to the two sides of the doppelganger by Jekyll and Hyde aren't exactly opposite characteristics like what was added before, but do create different attitudes for the two sides. With his interest in science and being a doctor, Jekyll adds a sense of rationality to the light side that was somewhat seen in Rosario and Lucifer. Where as Hyde, especially when he beats a man to death, adds the sense of violence and anger to the dark side, which did show up in Satan but not so much Matilda. Just like before, the user is invited to click certain objects listed at the top of the page to read quotes for a better understanding of the two sides.
The last room to show a character, though not the last room on the site, features the title character from Bram Stoker's Dracula as an example of a doppelganger that exists with only one side. Though the room is from French Rococo mansion, it reflects the nobility and decadence of Dracula's character. Dracula's one-sidedness can be seen in the fact that he doesn't cast a reflection in mirrors or glass. It can also be seen as that rather than being the dark side for one person, he is the dark side of all humanity, and perhaps even life as he is referred to as Un-Dead. Without a lighter side, Dracula also has no mask to hide behind behind in society, so he physically removes himself as well as creates a superstitious and negative aura around himself to keep others away. Harker even describes on his first dinner with the Count of when he touched his hand feeling immediately repulsed. Dracula, with his strange appearance and control over wolves adds to the sense of bestiality of the dark side that was seen in both Satan, through his physical appearance and manipulation, and Hyde's violence and murderous attack. And as a foreigner in London as well as an Un-Dead among the living, Dracula presents the dark side as an "other', an outsider to the society of the light. The same outsiderness can be seen in the other doppelgangers. Matilda was a woman in an Abbey full of men, Satan was cast out of Heaven and was a supernatural figure existing among men on Earth, and Hyde was created by Jekyll and had no physical ties to any one outside of Jekyll. Within the room, the user can click on a picture of a werewolf, Dracula, and a mirror off to one side for more quotes on Dracula and what he represents.
The final room contains the last paragraph of
information as well as citations for each of the other rooms, providing a
conclusion of the site. Just as stories and characters unfold and grow
throughout a novel, the site allows the user to explore and develop a sense of
the Gothic doppelganger. The images in each room show that while they are two
different sides, they are still sides of the same person, even in Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde's case. However there are differing and slightly opposing
characteristics of each side. The light side tends to be submissive, have a mask
like quality in that they aren't quite real and often retreat when the dark side
becomes present, is more rational and has a sense of goodness about it. The dark
side is aggressive and commanding and has elements of evil and violence as well
as physically can look repulsive to the light, though in Matilda and Rosario's
case both were attractive to Ambrosio. But while the two sides may seem to be
counteractive, they do coexist within one person and are used at different
By Meagan Lillich
English 113 Gothic Novel & Horror Fiction (Fall 2006)