The Governess

Crimson Peak

My interest in Gothic fiction first sparked back in high school during my AP English class; Jane Eyre and Frankenstein were two of my favorite pieces to come out of the era. I have a copy of the former because I loved the story so much, as well as Dracula to better understand what inspired some of today’s characterization of vampires. The reason I bring my fascination for Gothic fiction relates to the following pieces I made.

One of my assignments for Character Design was to “redesign” a character from a television series or film, so I chose Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak as inspiration. The film was the director’s twist of gothic fiction, of the typical “pure” female protagonist and the “mysterious” man she saves; Edith Cushing is the said protagonists of Crimson Peak, and ultimately who I chose to redesign. I mainly played around with the color of some of the outfits she wore in the film, also changing her poses and facial expressions.

This served as the basis for the creation of my own Gothic protagonist, who is heavily inspired by certain elements of Jane Eyre and Crimson Peak. The protagonist, who I simply named Amalthea, is a governess for the sons of a mysterious nobleman in a secluded mansion. The children themselves are quite troublesome and lack any sort of discipline, so evidently Amalthea has her work cut out for her. It doesn’t help that the wife of the nobleman treats the governess quite harshly for the presence of an unmarried woman in the household. This evidently is the set up of a story similar to Jane Eyre, but the similarities stop at the governess career choice.

Rather, Amalthea grows to understand as to why the children are so rambunctious, becoming an “older sister” to these boys, perhaps more of a motherly figure than their flesh and blood. Edith Cushing’s design and wardrobe from Crimson Peak represent the warmness and gentleness she brings into the life of those around her, especially to her love interest Thomas Sharpe. For Amalthea, I dressed her in the warm yellows that Edith wore, to depict her as the light in the darkness. The butterfly pin is a nod to her gentleness, but also alludes to her fragility, maybe even her naivety at the beginning of her career as a governess. The job itself awkwardly sits between nobility and servitude, hence why the dress is not as ornate as a noblewoman’s nor is it rags or a maid outfit. Her braided hair gives a sort of youthful appearance, the polite smile and folded hands behind her back to further showcase her humble nature.

Admittedly, this story is no happy one, as Amalthea becomes a ghost that haunts the mansion via dubious means. Did she die due to natural causes, or was it something much more sinister? A common theme in Gothic literature is the presence of ghosts and spirits, so why not make the motherly governess one? Edith Cushing was haunted by a handful of ghosts in Crimson Peak, all trying to communicate with her for reasons I will not spoil. But the appearance of the ghosts gave me an idea on how I wanted to portray Amalthea as a ghost. Being snuffed of her life too quickly and abruptly, Amalthea’s spirit is filled with despair and regret, especially for the boys she left without doing more to help them. Blue is often associated with sadness, hence why the governess is glowing an ominous azure glow, tears flowing down her eye sockets. Her braided hair is unfurled and falls haphazardly upon her shoulders, her face sunken and aged but not completely deteriorated. The nightgown she wears alludes to the fact she died sometime in the night, but for reasons unknown. The crimson background is the underlying rage beneath the sadness and despair Amalthea feels, knowing who was the reason behind her demise.

As for why the cover photo is a monarch butterfly trapped in a spider’s web, I’ll let your imagination interpret that,

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