Written by Dorine Fontaine
The Gothic Elements of "Aura"
Carlos Fuentes is one of
Latin America's most prominent men of letters. He is an essayist and literary
historian of the highest caliber, as well as the author of numerous screenplays,
dramas, and short stories; however, Fuentes is best known for his novels, which
use complex and innovative narrative techniques.
His novella “Aura “, published in 1962, is a gothic narrative with a
romances background. The triangular love story which occurs in the story is
mixed with a touch of mystery and enchantment.The
novella stages the story of Felipe Montero, a young historian who ends up
trapped in a house where paranormal events happen.The
story will draw you
into the dark and eerie universe of senora Consuelo’s old colonial mansion.
Gothic literature is
a genre, which features an atmosphere of terror and dread. The scene generally
takes place in a gloomy castle or mansions, where unexplained phenomena happen.
The characters that inhabit the house are often sinister. Many elements of the
gothic genre are present in Fuentes’ novella. The tone is one of the gloomy
and the setting is an old dark colonial mansion where an old lady, Miss Consuelo,
and her supposed niece, Aura, live. The house has dark corridors where the
protagonist fails many times to find his way, as if the house was a labyrinth.
Strange phenomena occur in the house, such as weird sounds of yowling
cats when there are no cats in the house and the simultaneous gestures of Miss
Consuelo and Aura but also the unexpected appearance and disappearance of Aura.
Lastly, an unexpected and very strange ending leaves the reader really perplexed
and invites him to follow the narrative up.
When studying about gothic elements in a story it is not enough to just
enumerate them. We should analyse in what way the author uses them and the
impact they have on the characters. “Aura" differs from other gothic
narratives in the sense that in addition of setting an atmosphere of mystery and
suspense, the author includes the reader in the narrative. Like Felipe -when he
read the advertisement- we feel a strange force which attracts us to read the
novella up to the end. This sensation is the consequence of the use of the
dramatic “you”. It forces the reader to participate in the action.
More than simply a reader we are also an actor. As Felipe we are trapped
in this disturbing universe. We are able to feel, to live, to understand that
abnormal phenomena happen in the house through Felipe’s description of them.
When Felipe entered the mansion we can feel the strange atmosphere which emerges
from the hall. This sensation is typical to the gothic genre. Its aim is to
create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense mixed with a threatening feeling
enhanced by the unknown. In “Aura” the “unknown” stems from the darkness
of the mansion. We have difficulties to find our way because it’s too dark.
The unknown is also the link between the young lady and the old one. The
inevitable question is who or what Aura really is ? Is she Miss Consuelo young
spectre? We are really puzzled by the fact that they do the same gesture at the
same moment. But we are also puzzled by the last episode -Felipe thinks that he
is kissing Aura but when the moon lights the room he discovers that it is
actually the old lady- . The last sentence also baffles all imagination
"let me recover my strength and I’ll bring her back...”. In short,
“Aura” gathers all the ingredients of the gothic: the setting, the plot and
the characters, all that contributes giving to the story a dreary aspect.