When Highsmith’s friend Arthur Koestler committed suicide with his wife due
to his leukaemia and Parkinson’s disease, she was both shocked and furious.
Her friend Jonathon Kent recalled, ‘As she talked about it her face
blackened, and she was very angry. She said that she would never forgive
him’. This chapter explores how Highsmith approaches the question of suicide
in her writing, and examines how suicide or self-murder, perhaps the darkest
of acts, accesses the Gothic in ways not usually considered within the
context of crime writing. Emphasis will be placed on the ways in which the
theme of suicide both foregrounds crime fiction’s debt to the Gothic and
also provides an interdisciplinary presence that binds both genres
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book demonstrates that incest was representative of a range of interests crucial to writers of the Gothic, often women or homosexual men who adopted a critical stance in relation to the heteronormative patriarchal world. Incest, a sexual act associated with transgression, violations of power and violence, has readily been conflated with sexual violence in Gothic scholarship and consigned to one of two gendered plots. Sexuality, questions of ownership, inheritance, women's subjugation to male authority, laws of coverture and primogeniture and issues concerning gender roles pervade Gothic works from the mid-eighteenth century on. The incest thematic as employed by women writers in the early modern period is shown to be transgressively endogamic in Maureen Quilligan's excellent work on incest in Elizabethan England.
There are several problems that usually emerge in scholarship examining representations of father-daughter incest in the Gothic, even in works by scholars whose goal is to lay bare the feminist themes that are central to the genre. Principal among these is that representations of father-daughter incest often cause works to be placed in the gendered subgenre of Female Gothic and to be viewed through a lens predicated on this generic division. This chapter examines the incestuous relationships between fathers and daughters in Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest and Mary Shelley's Matilda and the texts' attendant scholarship. These three works have been selected in order to compare the way that incest is rendered in a representative chronology of Gothic texts beginning with what has been traditionally defined as the original Gothic novel.