Using the Gothic for good with ‘’Ghost Species’’ and ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’

With my first blog post being about ‘’Ghost Species’’ and my second on ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, what better way to end the trilogy than by combining the two. For those that have not yet seen or read ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, I want to once again recommend you do. It’s not only a great and iconic piece of Australian Gothic, but also just a stellar work in general. Now then, on with the topic:

By now we’re most likely all very familiar with typical Gothic elements and their intended use. I will focus on three of them for this blog post. These being the uncanny, which blurs the lines between what is real and what is not, effectively heightening the sense of unease. The sublime, which evokes feelings of both sheer horror and simultaneously sheer beauty through vast landscapes for example. And finally the monster, arguably the most famous Gothic trope which unsurprisingly serves as a source of looming terror for both the reader and the characters. In short, these tropes are closely linked to horror and the macabre. But that is not always the case.

Here is where ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’ and ‘’Ghost Species’’ come into play. Take Eve for example. Initially, everything about here is presented in a way that makes it clear for the reader that she is something not human, more specifically not like the rest of the humans in the story. Her appearance and her behavior are always purposefully kept in the twilight zone between human and not human, a state of uncanniness. As the story progresses and her character gets much more fleshed out, it becomes apparent that her differences are much more superficial than previously assumed. She is a Neanderthal, though possesses qualities that resemble those of a Homo Sapiens. She is much stronger than those around her, but can be just as delicate and is very capable of feeling and expressing deep emotions. The entire sequence at the party is a great example of that, where it shows Eve pondering feelings of love not unlike anyone in this day and age would. Towards the very end of the novel, when Lucas is almost killed, the source of the uncanny becomes a source of hope when Eve decides to use her inhuman strength to fend off Drago. I consider this a really great and effective subversion of the classic monster trope in Gothic literature and a nice twist on the uncanny on top of just being a really exciting moment in general.

In ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, the ominous rock, looms silently and is always made to appear alluring yet threatening. Both its beauty and its terrifyingly mysterious aura capture the essence of the sublime quite nicely. It is initially framed by Mrs. Appleyard as something dangerous that is not to be explored, only to be observed from a safe distance. To the girls that eventually decide to explore the rock though, it serves more as a symbol of emancipation and independence. They can be seen taking off both their gloves and eventually their shoes the further they ascend, which shows how they free themselves from the chains of Appleyard College and the strict societal norms of the early 20th century in general. This gained independence is thanks to the previously demonized rock that is now painted in a completely different light than in the beginning.

Overall, the use of Gothic elements in both ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’ and ‘’Ghost Species’’ serves to subvert what readers and viewers have come to know as traditional elements of the Gothic. Instead of purely horror and fear, these elements are a symbol of strength and independence among others. Eve uses her inhuman abilities to protect and the rock gives the girls the freedom to explore a world outside of the confines of a facility that is arguably more fit as a symbol of the uncanny and sublime than the rock itself.