Crimson Peak: Literary Analysis (spoiler rich)

Sunday was pretty much a movie day. I woke up earlier to watch Crimsom Peak in the late morning with a good friend of mine, and Bridge of Spies in the late afternoon with my mother.

From the trailer and posters, Crimson Peak looks to be a Gothic movie, a la Tim Burton if one is not aware of the plot.

**The following contains spoilers, stop reading if you wish to watch it to be surprised.** 

Edith Cushing is an aspiring writer who is working on a story with a ghost in it. The man she takes her manuscript to advises her to write romance, which Edith thinks is because he is gender stereotyping her, thinking that she may be more suited to write romance because of the notion that women are emotional and sentimental perhaps. Edith refuses to write romance because she doesn’t wish to, which the societal convention non-comformist in me finds very satisfying.

Edith’s manuscript proves to be prophesying art, as a ghost in a story becomes her life story, albeit perhaps for a short while in the span of the movie.

It is not so much of a paranormal story although it is categorized as a Gothic horror-romance. I perceive it not so, but an anti-romance really. I love the movie sets, the costumes, everything, and although the movie generally had a few too many scares for my liking what struck me the most was the movie plot and themes.

Other Crimson Peak reviews have touched on the parallel between the red clay underneath the house and the bleeding that has occurred in the house. Personally what I noticed were the butterflies that died and the black moths. When the Sharpe siblings were still in America in the early part of the film, Lucille tells Edith that they only have black moths in England and ‘they feed on butterflies, I’m afraid.’ The Sharpe family estate has plenty of black moths alright, which are also a representative of the Sharpe siblings. The butterflies would be the women they murdered for their inheritance. The only happy ending I perceive is Edith’s butterfly survival from the black moths of the Sharpe siblings. The rest is fodder for interesting in-depth analysis.

Gleaning plot information from the movie’s end to the start, I find a lot of pathos and space for sympathy for the characters, specifically Lucille Sharpe, though she appears to be psychopathic in nature and I believe also a character people may love to hate.

When the Sharpe siblings were young, they were confined to the nursery and not allowed much anywhere else in the family home. Although this may seem to be an act of parental negligence, even abuse on the parents’ part, that act may be well intended in order to shield the siblings from witnessing the abusive dynamics in the Share parents’ relationship. “Our father hated our mother,” Lucille recounted, as she tends to Edith in bed after finding her passed out at the stairs of the mansion. Lucille also mentioned that her father broke both her mother’s legs and she was bedridden for a while, making Lucille needing to take care of her mother physically. It is safe enough to say that the siblings didn’t have positive gender influences during their early years. While there was no mention of the siblings being abused directly, circumstances were bad enough that ‘the only love they knew was from each other.’ Which led to their incestuous relationship early on. Lucille killing their mother upon the mother finding out they were lovers as well as siblings may be an indicator of her psychopathic tendencies, the violence of the murder showing Lucille’s lack of attachment and remorse as well as her capability for uninhibited violence.

However Lucille’s personal admittance that ‘a twisted love like this turns you into monsters, makes you do bad things’ may dispel her from being psychologically profiled as a true psychopath, as her admittance indicates that she still has a sense of moral right and wrong and self-awareness.

On the other hand, Lucille’s swift actions in killing her mother also clearly shows her fear in losing the only thing she has known, which makes me feel sorry for her. All young children naturally yearn for love and stability, which neither sibling got from their parents anyway. Lucille’s brother Thomas has clearly been the only stable constant throughout her whole life, which I infer from her lashing out at Edith when she discovers that the reason Edith and Thomas hadn’t come back for that one night because they were snowed in at the post office.

When the stable constant eventually disappears when Thomas admitted that he has fallen in love with Edith, Lucille flies into a fit of rage, which leads to her killing him and hunting Edith down. While Lucille appeared seemingly psychopathic when she told Edith she won’t stop until she kills her or vice versa, after several hours it dawned upon me that there might have been a desperate plea in between those extreme words “Either you kill me or I’ll kill you.” With her stabilizing constant of her brother already dead gone, there seems to be nothing else for Lucille to live for. The blunt force trauma Edith deals her with in an act of self-defense is a mercy killing, from one aspect.

Beyond the incestuous relationship, the ending is pretty sad. Edith is symbolic of the future Thomas might have, the yang to his yin if one might parallel. Just when Thomas has found that he has fallen in love, he is killed by his sister whom he loved (too much). One could say he was killed by his past, with his future symbolic in Edith just out of reach.

However I am so bittersweet-glad that the ending unfolded this way, as I find a happy ending between Thomas and Edith somewhat far-fetched. After all, even if Lucille was a stronger person and magnanimous enough to concede to her brother’s soft heart for Edith, it will take a long time before Thomas manages to healthily detach himself from his sister after decades of co-over-dependence. His feelings towards his sister were once so strong that he could confidently vow to her that he will never fall in love with another. He won’t be able to truly give his whole heart over to Edith otherwise. When one is hung up in the past, one can’t truly step into the future. Perhaps Thomas’ eventual demise is also proof of that.

Additionally, sometimes we end up ‘loving’ another person because of what the person represents and what he/she could offer us, as per real life, hence I am still skeptical of the purity and authenticity of Thomas’ feelings towards Edith.

Edith and McMichael walks out of the Sharpe estate together. Maybe they ended up together after some time. If they did I am sure it would be a truer love, McMichael having known Edith a long time since they were childhood friends and probably understands Edith a lot better and he also obviously cares for her.

The ending scene ends with a book ‘Crimson Peak’ authored by Edith Cushing closing shut. Edith has found her true literary muse after all, in the form of the harrowing experience she survived. She might have ended up like the Sharpes’ mother otherwise. While the deceased mother had two broken legs, Edith just had one. What a close shave it was for her!


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