abby l. goode Rice University Toward the end of Leonora Sansay's Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo (1808), Clara, one the novel's protagonists, describes a terrifying and odd incident: the migration of egg-bearing land crabs toward the seashore. Startled awake in the middle of the night, she hears "a most unaccountable noise, which seem[s] to issue from all parts of the room, not unlike the clashing of swords" (145). This disturbance, she learns, is the sound of fiercely approaching fertile crabs, striking their claws and wearing paths along the way. Letting "no obstacle tur[n] them from their course," the crabs move through Clara's room and across her shrieking companion's chest (145). They are massive and ubiquitous, yet intimately close. A seemingly anomalous event in the narrative, the land crabs' migration epitomizes the novel's overall tendency to combine horrific and reproductive imagery in a phenomenon I call "gothic fertility." This scene, moreover, evokes a distinctly ecological horror that conceives of the environment as frighteningly close-knit, interactive, and multidimensional. The land crab episode forms part of an extended series of representations of gothic fertility in the novel--a series that becomes ever more ecological as the narrative shifts from
Early American Literature – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jun 21, 2015
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