The Hero of the Southern Gothic Love Story
First and foremost, he’ll almost always be a Southern boy, born and bred, and if not, at least, that’s where his ancestors hailed from. Without fail, he will be Scots-Irish. Oh, there may be other things mixed in, but his dominant characteristics will be those of the unfailingly loyal, duty-oriented, hard fighting Scotsman who after failure of his efforts to divest himself of the English in Scotland and Northern Ireland kept heading west to a new continent and a new fight, which he eventually won, only to lose those hard-won rights and the Constitution he’d forged when he lost the War Between the States. But his loyalty to those two lost nations and the one that succeeded them, is without question. Win or lose, he takes pride in the fight. He knows where he came from and why, and he honors those who sired him.
Against any one of the turbulent backdrops of Southern history (or perhaps periods that aren’t so turbulent), enters into this man’s life an innocent young woman who doesn’t necessarily want to be with him. Perhaps their backgrounds are different, their values at opposite ends of the social and/or political spectrum, or their hearts are on opposite sides in a great national conflict. On the surface they are so wrong for one another, but in reality so right. Regardless of the fluke that saddled him with her, she is his duty and his responsibility. She will become his life.
Despite her worries, her frustration, and her doubts regarding this stubborn, secretive man she is unwillingly falling in love with, the heroine ultimately worships the ground her hero walks on. If she’s smart, of course, she’s not too careless in letting him realize that.[But women are only so smart when it comes to the men they love.]
In the Gothic, the heroine is in peril. In a story crafted on the classic model, the source of that danger should appear to be the hero. The hero may or may not recognize the threat to the heroine, he may not even believe danger exists, but the heroine believes, and the reader knows, that the threat is real. The question is, from where does the danger emanate and why?
That strong, handsome, sensuous, and tender in the night hero is hiding a secret, either something so shameful he never wants his woman to learn of it or an indiscretion, not necessarily committed by him, but the divulgence of which would, nevertheless, hurt a weaker individual he is trying to protect . Alas, shameful secrets and unpunished indiscretions have a way of revealing themselves, particularly if there is a sinister being lurking in the background who is determined to bring the haughty hero to his knees.
And the hero’s weakness is his woman. As the threat against the heroine grows, so does her alarm over the hero’s apparent indifference. But what she perceives to be lack of concern is really his stubborn reaction to what he regards as her lack of faith in him compounded by his determination to fulfill his duty to those who trust him.
The threat against the heroine intensifies and the hero’s indifference, to her tortured mind, now becomes the major clue in a sinister conspiracy against her. As the heroine becomes more and more isolated, the hero watches the woman he loves withdraw from him. Threat or no, he must address her fears. In the Gothic, there is always a threat. Addressing the heroine’s fears is just one step away from the hero’s confronting his own. It is a step he realizes all too soon he must take to save not only the woman he loves, but their love as well. And, of course, he always does. Always has and always will.
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