Gothic themes, tropes and narrative converge in the 2012 videogame Dear
Esther. Set in perpetual twilight, on a deserted Hebridean island, this game
is part of a growing sub-genre known as the ‘first-person walker’, which
involves the player exploring a typically Gothic space – a setting as
evocative as that of Frankenstein or Wuthering Heights. Through a subversion
of gaming expectations and tropes, this chapter argues that Dear
Esther's control system and lack of interactivity with the game’s
landscape allows the player to take the role of a ghost, haunting the
island, as she uncovers a narrative of loss and suicide. The chapter further
argues that through the game’s construction, the player forces the narrator
– an unnamed male whom the player hears as she walks across and even inside
the island, delivering fragments of letters to the titular Esther – to
endlessly repeat his suicide and the events that lead to it.
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.