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The self-destroying Gothic villain in Pauline Hopkins’ Of One Blood

This chapter explores the ways that Pauline Hopkins employs the act of suicide as a way to achieve justice in Of One Blood; or, The Hidden Self, originally serialised in Colored American Magazine, 1902–1903. Although Hopkins’ novel is hard to categorise, many of its features – haunted houses, family secret, ghosts and incest – indicate its place within the Gothic tradition. On the very first page of the novel, the main character, Reuel Briggs, a Harvard medical student, asks ‘Is suicide wrong?’, setting up an ongoing obsession of the character and the novel. After many plot twists and revelations, the novel’s Gothic villain, Aubrey Livingston, commits murder. Another character intones ‘Justice will be done’, and shortly thereafter, Aubrey’s body is found floating in the Charles River. The narrator later explains that ‘“death by thine own hand”, [was] whispered in [Aubrey’s] ear while [he was] under hypnotic influence’; essentially he was forced to commit suicide. In Hopkins’ novel, suicide offers an unusual solution that both punishes the villain and relieves the victim of any sense that she has been the cause of the destruction of another life.

in Suicide and the Gothic