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The Gothic Element of Revenge Between Edgar Allan Poe and Joyce Carol Oates

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Edgar Allan Poe and Joyce Carol Oates are two gothic writers who show the gothic element of revenge very well through works such as "Hop-Frog," "Schroeder's Stepfather," and "Masque of the Red Death." The characters used in these stories have specific reasons or events to use violence and death as the solution to pull off their revenge. All of these stories show how people are hideous beasts and show how the concept of revenge may be the only justice to take out the beastly characters.

In Poe's story, "Hop-Frog," the main character is already a person with physical disabilities and a troubled life. Hop-Frog, the main character, is a crippled dwarf and a fool, or jester, for the king. The king is the beastly character in this story because of the way he crudely makes fun of anyone beneath him. The king directly degrades Hop-Frog and the woman Hop-Frog loves, Trippetta. Trippetta is also a dwarf and works in the castle for the king. Through the story, Hop-Frog gets irritated by the king's cruel jokes but the king doesn't think he goes far enough. The king forces Hop-Frog to drink wine even though he knows that he doesn't enjoy drinking wine because: "it excited the poor cripple almost to madness" (319). Trippetta tried to help Hop-Frog by asking the king to not make him drink the wine, but he: "pushed her violently from him, and threw the contents of the brimming goblet in her face" (321). The enraged Hop-Frog decided to assist the king when he asked to get advice on what he and his seven ministers should wear to their party. He told the men, "We call it...the Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs" (322) to get them excited in the costume idea. Hop-Frog covered them in flax, tar, and hair and put chains on them to humiliate them while they believed they would look like orangutans and scare the women at their masquerade party. Little did the eight men know, this was part of Hop-Frog's revenge scheme. The eight men were chained to the chandelier as a part of their act to protect the guests at the party from the crazy beasts. When Hop-Frog went to find out who the men were, he put a torch to their faces and the flax instantly burst into flames. All eight men were ablaze and Hop-Frog climbed up the chain and said: "I now see what manner of people these maskers are...a king who does not scruple to strike a defenseless girl and his seven councilors who abet him in the outrage" (326). Meanwhile, "The eight corpses swung in their chains...blackened, hideous, and indistinguishable mass" (326). The way Hop-Frog pulled off his revenge was grotesque, which showed how bad he considered these men to be, so they deserved this type of death. The men lived like selfish beasts and died as selfish beasts.

"Schroeder's Stepfather" shows the same type of revenge ethic as "Hop-Frog." In this story, a boy named Jack gets a stepfather named Jack also. He was: "barrel bodied, big-headed, with big slanted asymmetrical teeth...and those small bright eyes lit with merriment, or malice, or both" (53). The first day that the two met, Jack Schroeder (the stepfather) changed the boy's name: "I'm 'Jack' cause I been 'Jack' all my life, everybody knows I'm 'Jack,' so you're 'John" (53). This shows that even when first meeting the boy, the man gets rid of his identity. Throughout living with Jack Schroeder, John realizes how disturbing the man actually is. From his mother, Miriam, came: "no sound except perhaps muffled sobs, the faintest and most futile protests, the sound of shame, the sound of craven female pleading, the sound of the most ignominious and complete defeat: the very erasure of the human soul" (56). Jack has taken the identity of a small child and has completely erased the humanity from Miriam, his wife. Later on in the story, you also come to find out that John's dog, Curly, also dies from this beast. Curly gets beat to death after a life of misery in the household.

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