SparkNotes Blog

How to Solve Personal Problems, According to Gothic Literature

Characters in gothic literature seem to experience one disaster after another—we’re side-eyeing you, here, Jane Eyre— and you’d think that with all of that practice, they might have some pretty solid life lessons to pass on. Unfortunately, it turns out that learning life lessons is not something these people excel at—but at the very least, you can learn from their mistakes. Read on for some truly terrible problem-solving strategies from these literary train-wrecks, and then do the complete opposite.

1. Imprison the problem in your attic and hope that maybe if you can’t see it, it isn’t really there. Unfortunately, this theory is deeply flawed, and the problem will haunt your home and your mind like a specter until it inevitably sets your house on fire. (Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre)

2. Take a break from an intimidatingly complicated personal issue by tackling a smaller, more manageable one—like conquering death itself! (Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus)

3. Has a terrible sickness taken hold of your land? Just lock yourself and your friends in your palace and throw a lavish party, ignoring the fact that outside the gates, scores of people are dying from the plague. But be sure to avoid a mysterious guest dressed in gruesome red costume. Like, do not, under any circumstance, confro—oh, cool, you’re confronting him. Congrats on your impending death. (Prince Prospero in “The Mask of Red Death”)

4. Sick of your problematic current spouse? Marry a different problem! (Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights)

5. When you think about it, your problems are really just achievements that other people don’t understand. Embrace your hedonistic immorality, and leave the ugly consequences for that deeply frightening painting that you’re hiding in the old schoolroom of your mansion. (Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray)

6. Find a sweet old Dutch man who knows exactly what the plot is, and have him solve all of your problems for you, including the ones you didn’t even know you had. Bonus points if he has a charming habit of frequently butchering English idioms, but this trait is optional. (Dr. John Seward in Dracula)

7. If all else fails, you could always spontaneously combust. (Krook in Bleak House)