The Construction of the Gothic Heroine in George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Keywords:American Gothic, Romero, female heroine, horror, Female Gothic, Patriarchy, Domesticity, Horror Cinema
George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) is considered a landmark film in the horror genre as well as being an example of a twentieth century Gothic text. This paper explores the film’s construction of the Gothic heroine. Whilst Night of the Living Dead is the product of predominantly male creators, most notably Romero who co-wrote and directed the film, it utilises several conventions of the female Gothic genre. Barbara, the film’s female protagonist, initially appears as a potential twentieth century equivalent to the female Gothic heroines of the past, but as the film goes on, she becomes more and more marginalised by the patriarchal confines of her own society. The film suggests that if Barbara were allowed more freedom to make her own decisions with regard to the terrifying situation in which she is placed, the likelihood of her survival would be increased drastically. However, the overbearing male characters refuse to relinquish their patriarchal urges and this leads to Barbara’s inability to realise her own salvation. The paper argues that Barbara is unable to vanquish the creatures that attack her because she does not have the support structure, both physically and psychologically, to do so. She is not only a victim of the ghouls that exist at the boundaries of society, but also of the patriarchal structures that claims to be able to protect her.
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