Gothic Themes

Katana Duet: Samurai’s Forbidden Love

The following is a general discussion of whether or not Katana Duet is a work of “gothic” literature.

Katana Duet was written due to a notice on a small publisher’s website requesting something “dark” and “twincest”. All the research for the story was completed at The Wisconsin State Historical Society, Memorial Library and Ebling Medical Library located on the UW-Madison campus. I did not intentionally complete the research for the purpose of writing a novel however when I saw the publisher’s request list I synthesized all that I knew from the era with my own interests and sketched out a plot.

Some general characteristics of Gothic literature and themes in Katana Duet.

Like other genres, the gothic went through a gradual evolution over 2 centuries and most recently people have transformed it into a modern lifestyle. A concise definition of gothic literature is as elusive as an early morning mist on the grave…

  1. Victim/Captive vs Torturer (fascination with torturer)


This is really tricky because the “torturer” is usually a metaphor of symbol of a human shortcoming such as greed or lust. For instance a traditional gothic story setup is a Lord/Duke/wealthy Uncle holding a young virgin maiden captive. The captor in that situation would symbolize lust.

In the case of Katana Duet you do have an undercurrent of the Lennartssons desiring to keep the Matsumoto twins for a certain purpose. On the surface level, the character of Klara is the stereotypical gothic maiden in distress. She is physically weak and a virgin but she refuses to be a captive of a hospital or sanitorium, where she belongs, nor does she allow herself to be a victim. There is an attempt by the captives to turn the tables on their captors near the end of the story however the victims remained in the “prison” up to that point because there is an undeniable fascination between the Matsumoto samurai and the Lennartsson siblings. Klara was always entranced by sideshow “freaks” and she even compares herself to them. Upon meeting the Japanese twins she put away her collection of newspaper cut-outs and bid good bye to the Siamese Twins.

An expansion of the notion of captive and captor is the atmosphere of isolation. The setting of Wisconsin in the story as well as the racial isolation serves to “contain” the characters within the house and close to one another in a tight, isolated plot.

  1. Supernatural

The supernatural in Katana Duet is not obvious however I did insert many natural elements in key points. The twins were born between the elements of fire and water. O-Hana, Akeno’s lover and employer, who also had a fascinating relationship with her own brother feared nature’s wrath. While the twins and Lennartsson’s lived together they all experienced a severe storm, complete with several tornados which is an expression of nature’s displeasure (this is not necessarily directed at the Matsumoto twins). Even at the end of the story another destructive element comes into play.

  1. Mystery

Katana Duet was constructed with 3 layers of mystery:

  1. What happened to Akeno during the Boshin War in 1868 and what did Aki see?

  2. What is Klara’s true relationship with Konrad?

  3. What is wrong with Klara and how is it connected to the Matsumoto brothers?

Minor themes from Katana Duet which are also common in gothic literature is blood and disease, namely tuberculosis.

Ofcourse Katana Duet also deviates from the gothic because it does not take place in a windy castle surrounded by a dark forest, so I figure it ought to belong in a sub-genre: agri-gothic.

Agri-gothic contains many characteristics of the traditional gothic except it takes place outside of Europe and in a rural setting.


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