Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Ira Levin's 'Rosemary's Baby'

So as I mentioned in my introduction, the first Modern Gothic text that I read was Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin.  I had just been set my course texts lists and went over to the shop on campus to buy a few of the (less expensive) books on my lists.  Now they say not to judge a book by it's cover but the bright red, black and white cover was the most noticeable book on that book shelf so obviously, I picked that one up first.  I sauntered (procrastination as you will find is my forte) back to my dinghy room at halls of residence where a cup of hot chocolate and an unwritten essay awaited. 

The obvious (academic) choice of course would be to sit and write the essay due for my current module rather than getting ahead with my reading for the next semester however, there comes a time (usually when an essay is due) that a student must do what we do best. . .procrastinate (incidentally, I am currently partaking in this hobby as I have an (unwritten) essay (or 3) due very soon).  I lay propped up with pillows, hot chocolate precariously balanced on my swivel chair beside the bed and began to read. 

From the moment I opened this book, I felt a horrid unease - you know that feeling you get when you can't quite put your finger on what is wrong - it was enthralling though, a kind of buzz that I couldn't explain.  The perfect urban lives of the inhabitants of a huge apartment block with the undercurrent of evil.  Early on, the references to the building's history are downright creepy - the Trench sisters who ate children, mysterious deaths, suicides, witchcraft to name but a few! As if the memories of these incidents were not bad enough, we are then subjected to the suicide of Rosemary's only friend so far - and this is all in the short time since Rosemary and hubby Guy moved in! Loves young dream, or not quite.  Rosemary is a bit of a dreamer from the off - you know the type who wants her house to look like the pictures in a magazine. Guy is a low-rate actor with nothing famous to put his name to. Clearly Guy wears the trousers and Rosemary teeters after him and bows to his every fancy. 

There is a simplicity to Minnie (Mouse) and Roman Castavet, their new neighbours.  The pair seem to be a nice old couple who are interfering busy bodies with the best of intentions.  Invites to dinner, gossip, that sort of thing.  It is they who we feel sorry for when the young girl that they have taken in off of the streets commits suicide.  However, Rosemary (as slow on the uptake as she is in the rest of the novel) can't really be bothered with them - she wants her life with Guy to get on track without people interfering.  Guy however, loves a cheeky rendez vous with the Castavets every other night or so.  Mysteriously, he suddenly starts getting big acting jobs thrown towards him and things are going well. 

It is pretty obvious that Rosemary wants to start a family from the beginning - she plans out where the nursery will go etc from the moment they see the flat.  Guy on the other hand is less than keen until all of a sudden he decides that it's a fabulous idea and they should start trying straight away (hmmmm. . .).  Unfortunately, he takes this to a new level by drugging Rosemary (with some help from Minnie and Roman) and effectively rapes her whilst she is in a strange, dreamlike state.  All of this is down played and he manipulates Rosemary into believing that he thought that she would want him to start trying for a baby right away (even if she was unconscious!).  All of this is brushed aside by Rosemary when she discovers that she is pregnant and we all go back to happy families again. 

Throughout her pregnancy, Minnie tells Rosemary to drink a concoction of hers in order to get rid of the terrible pains that she is suffering and so (even though it's not actually helping) Rosemary drinks up (after a few pages of her naivety you just want to shake Rosemary and tell her to get a bloody grip!).  It is not until it is far too late that Rosemary discovers the conspiracy against her and what has really been going on all along.  Of course she ignored all of the signs, warnings and mysterious deaths of those around her.  Even her friend (really like a father), Mitch, tries to warn her but alas she pays no attention.

I won't spoil the end of the book but needless to say that it involves Rosemary's baby.

Things to look out for:
Symbolism of dreams and the American Dream
Hyper-reality (see Baudrillard on Simulacra and Simulation and compare to magazines and the press)
The traditional Gothic building (based on the Dakota building in New York)

Let me know what you think of it :)

Me, Myself and I. . .

This is a new venture for me and one which I hope to dedicate more time to than I have in previous attempts at blogging. Somehow life gets in the way though - wouldn't you agree? 

So I am currently in my 3rd year of an English and Teaching joint honours degree and have a new found fascination with Modern Gothic Literature. A venture introduced to me by two members of staff at my university who are running a course module on it this semester.  I had never before ventured into the genre of literature known as Gothic, horror or terror until late November 2012 when I first picked up Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby. From there on in I have been absolutely, irrevocably fascinated by the whole genre.

Since, I have decided that my dissertation topic next year will be on some form of Gothic Literature, I just need to figure out which part!! So anyway, this is going to keep track of my journey through a nail-biting (probably terrifying since I am a total wimp!) genre that I just can't get enough of!!
M x