Sleeping characters in the Gothic are subject to violation, both in dreams and in reality. Antonia, for example, is magically kept asleep in The Monk as her mother is murdered. She is also asleep as Ambrosio abducts her from her home; when she wakes she is in the crypt below the monastery where she is subsequently raped and killed.

Sleep is depicted in the Gothic text to be a process or an activity that forms a locus for perverted horrors to take shape and thrive in the most subtle and monstrous of ways. Instead of being rendered as a harmless pursuit that reinvigorates the body, soul and mind or a natural event that follows the exertions of the day, it manifests itself in all its liminality as a state of being that exposes the vulnerability of the individual to supernatural forces and macabre influences beyond the his/her consciousness or control. This subversive concept of sleep is played out both in Dracula and Jekyll & Hyde. Lucy Westenra writes in her journal, “Oh the terrible struggle that I have had against sleep…with such unknown horrors as it has for me!” Henry Jekyll recounts, in his narrative, how he went to bed as the doctor but had awakened as the villainous Hyde. Sleep not only becomes the medium for animating mysterious and arcane metamorphoses but in a larger context symbolizes, through its unnatural affiliations with the Undead and the fantastic, how the general malaise, repression and unspoken anxieties and fears of a society at a critical stage of transition can only be expressed via the disruptions and distortions of a natural procedure. Sleep, in the Gothic, can only be restored to its original, positive, non-threatening condition paradoxically through death even though in its previous malevolent state it is inextricably tied to death.

Courtesy of Wendy Fall, Marquette University, and Sherene Lobo, National University of Singapore.

See also: Dreams




The Affecting History of the Duchess of C**** Who Was Confined Nine Years in a Horrid Dungeon, Under Ground, Where Light Never Entered, a Straw Bed Being Her Only Resting Place, and Bread and Water Her Only Support, Conveyed by Means of a Turning-Box, by Her Inhuman Husband; Whom She Saw but Once During Her Long Imprisonment, Though Suffering by Hunger, Thirst, and Cold, the Most Severe Hardships, But Fortunately She Was at Last Discovered, and Released from the Dungeon, By Her Parents. [Transcript], Stéphanie Félicité Genlis