The Fifth Child does indeed follow the criteria's to land its personal as a 'classic horror account', however, it is more than that; the novel blends its components of horror and gothic, with a directly observed local realism, like this of Lessing's early on 'Martha Mission' books, as well as designs of the supernatural, helped bring as well as an almost border of science-fiction genre. But typical to Lessing, it also breaks a few of the conventions of the 'basic horror' genre; using the nuclear family, and using the sociable framework of the 'swinging-sixties' and what novelist Tom Wolfe message or calls the 'me 10 years' of the nineteen-seventies. Lessing also uses this favoured 19th century gothic trend of rejection in the family, significant with both the protagonist (Harriet) and antagonist (Ben).
Although, with hindsight of Lessing's 1962 novel, 'The Golden Notebook', you might have trepidations about trying to fit it in cosily into any specific genre, especially seeing how the latter novel invoked Lessing's anger at feminists who hailed it as a 'feminist classic', and vice versa. Nonetheless it is fair to say 'The Fifth Child' pulls upon a variety of genres, each genre supplying it various fascinating results, which is without doubt while it has been labelled a 'modern old classic'.
For one to explore Lessing's information of the novel we should first determine the horror genre, a genre that times has been surpassed by the acceptance of the present day horror film. In his 1982 anthology Leading Evil, author Douglas Winter stated, "Horror is not really a genre, like the puzzle or technology fiction or the european. It is not some sort of fiction, designed to be restricted to the ghetto of a particular shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an feelings". If we are to accept this as true, than Lessing's description with the Fifth Child is indeed adequate, with it invoking the thoughts of the reader, using the 'most traditional fear' of giving birth to a monster, in cases like this Ben Lovatt.
However, Lessing makes it impossible for the reader to pin-point the true character of Ben's difference, and whether we are meant to see him as monster, a supernatural being physique of science fiction, symbolic for the engineering of racial, cultural, or class difference, or a shape of social realism, whether that is clearly a psychologically disabled, or autistic child, or even a child with disabilities, produced by Harriet's 'sedative' use during her pregnancy. But despite these choices, he remains an integral representation of horror in the novel, but largely because Lessing we can see him from the point of view of his family; chiefly his parents, Harriet and David Lovatt.
Lessing introduces us both of these eccentric individuals, and later their happy family- using her quick style of narrative to quickly build up this family, that are not perfect or idyllic, but there is certainly their attraction; and then even quicker she tears that down.
That begins when the reader hits Harriet's highly significant fifth pregnancy, 45 pages in and Lessing begins to disintegrate David and Harriet's romantic relationship, with Harriet's thoughts of 'rejection' (45); she becomes alienated and separated, because she was pressured to give all her focus on 'challenge' the foetus. By trying to battle with the pain, Harriet was pressured to leave the bed room, the place, where David and Harriet connected the most, and Lessing uses this disintegration to create Harriet up to fulfil her lone heroic quest.
Lessing again quickly starts off to build up pace employing the horror theme through this monstrous foetus inside Harriet, whom is convinced which it can respond to 'her thoughts'. The theory is a disturbing one, yet it is accompanied by many more, such as Harriet's idea that the foetus is intentionally inflicting pain. Lessing carefully amounts Harriet's character, at first she is shown as a victim, but Harriet's use of 'tranquillizers' in her attempt to douse the 'enemy' is horrifically spine-tingling, specially when it could well be interpreted that she is undergoing a difficult pregnancy, little or nothing more. For the rest of the novel, Harriet's character feels 'criminalized' by her family, and communal establishments, yet her heroic save of Ben allows the reader to warm to her again; and despite Lessing's criticism of feminism, it disposes of the patriarchal aspect of the suppressed girl, often common in both horror and gothic fiction. Also, readers from a certain generations can make connection from Harriets useful tranquilizers and the Thalidomide injury that occurred in England in the late 1950s through the first 60s; Thallidomide directed to cure morning sickness, yet resulted in thousands of birth defects. Lessing is obviously allowing interpretation that Harriets drug use is perhaps the cause of Ben's 'deformity'.
These connotations with science and drug use again pick up on the favorite theme found in horror. Throughout the 19th century, we start to see the genre of horror and gothic entwined with technology, and even the most prolific novelists and literary greats have used science to build up the most horrific creatures, such as Frankenstein's 'Creature' in Mary Shelly's 'Frankenstein', and Hyde in Stevenson's 'The Strange CircumstanceJekyll and Hyde'. The character of Ben has much in common with both personas; Victor Frankenstein expresses "horror "and "disgust" towards his creation, Harriet and David share the same emotions, and like Frankenstein's creature, Ben is alienated because of his difference, and later declined- this rejection could maintain interpreted as the cause for Bens harmful characteristics, as was the circumstance with the 'creature'. And like in Shelly's book the horror is invoked from the reality of what can happen when Humans 'play god', like Victor Frankenstein, or even unintentionally so like Harriet Lovatt. Lessing's book also offers elements in keeping with Henry James's 'The Flip of the Screw'; a book which remains spine-tingling because of it's theme of 'The Problem of the Innocent'; modern culture dictates that children are innocent, so when we are offered by a child with a harmful nature, intent on creating pain, it invokes the feelings of dread, an sentiment that family of Ben Lovatt know well.
It can be an adequate 'horror account', and not because one is simply too scared to argue with Ms. Lessing, indeed, critics have argued this novel to be about the Palestine 'problem', anti-Semitism, and one French journalist argued that 'Of course The Fifth Child is approximately Assists", all to which Lessing tartly responded that she 'would have written a pamphlet' to point out such issues. But the horror of the book does not rest in gothic structures of the suburban house, or even in 'nameless deformity' of Ben Lovatt. The true, sophisticated horror is at the reality of the book- the children's reactions of 'hysterical comfort' to Bens removal are sickening, yet full of truth; it is very easy to understand why Lessing was 'sweating blood vessels' rewriting this more 'genuine version'. The 7 webpages of the look at a 1960's organization are a shock reminder to the collective conscience, a horrific symbol reminding us how exactly we once cured the mentally sick.
The added themes of gothic, realism, and the supernatural do not take anything away to make it any less adequate of a horror; perhaps, you can argue that they make it less of a traditional, but horror fiction is can't be defined like other genres, because as our anxieties and terrors change with time, so too will the definition of horror. And Lessing's approach to combining themes help to remind us that that the novel talks of the individual condition and forcibly reminds us of how little we actually know and understand. The supernatural theme invokes worries of the mysterious, and the use of domestic realism basically brings it nearer to home, and thus helps it be more horrifying.
Word count number: 1321