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.

Works Cited