RSS Feed

Gothic Sparkhouse

I’ve been feeling deflated these past few days, and I’m struggling to be my bouncy self.

I know it’s only temporary, but I can’t rest until all my exam results are in, this school year is put to rest, and my thoughts can continue in their usual chirpy manner.

Last weekend I re-watched Sparkhouse.

The last time I had seen  it was on YT on an IPad, with each episode sliced into 10 minute parts.

I liked it, but I can now confirm that as much as watching something in this way can provide a quick fix, I could appreciate the mini-series so much more on a TV screen.

I had missed so many elements the first time around.

I remember thinking: Poor John!

This time around I was thinking: Poor poor Carol!

In keeping with the gothic convention, this story has all the element we would come to expect of (it is loosely based on Wuthering Heights, after all).

We have the rural area, the crumbling house, long past its glory.

The distance from other dwellings helps to hide the depravities that take place there.

There is a feeling of doom and gloom.

The characters are dissolutioned, with no prospects for the future, and a depressing feeling of never being able to move on somewhere better. They feel trapped in the reality that surrounds them but, for one reason or another, feel compelled to exist in a tortuous environment.

With the feeling of seclusion comes depravity. The social norms and taboos don’t influence the lives of the inhabitants of Sparkhouse. Carol was clearly let down by the authorities who were meant to protect her.

The fall of the authority is an important theme.

We can clearly see the weakness of paternalism. Those in a father-figure position are either too weak to protect their family, or are the cause of suffering. The parent becomes the child. Adolescents are face with grown-up problems, and are forced to take on the role of protector of other children.

I used to think: Poor John! because I focused on the Armitage character.

 I felt like life would be wonderful for him if only Carol loved him back. I felt like she was using him and didn’t care about his feelings.


Carol is the clear victim here.

She is a product of a horrible upbringing, one that made her constantly fight to survive.

Every single man in her life had let her down.


Yes, even John, in some ways.

She was always honest with him, which is something I overlooked the first time around.

She made a promise to be faithful to him, and she did.

She vowed they would be ‘proper’ man and wife. I can’t even imagine what sex must be like for a victim of child abuse, rape.

Even if it distraught her, she still upheld her part of the agreement and slept with John.

It’s true that if you look at other male characters in Sparkhouse, it’s hardly fair to call John a  wrong-doer.

He has a kind heart.

It’s his loneliness that makes him weak. It makes him vulnerable and easy to manipulate.

His affection for Carol, and the desire to be with her clouds his judgment.

I have no doubt that he wants to look after Carol, but I think he would always prove too weak for her. Perhaps, because all Carol has ever experienced in life is pain and disappointment, she could never fully surrender to John. He, in turn, would always be too weak to have a positive effect on her.

 I doubt he’d have the strength to exorcise the memories of the past.

Then again, maybe John looking after Carol, loving her unconditionally is what would finally break the horrible cycle of violence and abuse in Sparkhouse.

I love Sparkhouse.

I have a feeling that when I go back to it one day, I’ll discover many other details that I have overlooked.

If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so!

All images: RACentral

About Agzy The Ripper

Sew, Rip, Repeat... and love each moment of it! Join me as I embark on a myriad of sewing and crafting shenanigans.

27 responses »

  1. It’s in my wish list!!

    • It’s a must, RA’s part is great, and John is a sweetheart, but there’s so much more going on there. Maybe you should watch it like I did last year on YT? Not the best viewing experience, but you could see if it’s worth investing in 🙂

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on this. Very interesting. I ordered it on DVD a while ago but haven’t got it yet. Like you, I have only watched it on YT – and after reading your analysis here I wonder whether I will also change my pov from the John-apologetic to the Carol-fan…

    • I think John’s woolly wig and dodgy clothes can make it a tad off-putting, but it really is such a fascinating watch. My sis isn’t an RA fan, but she really liked it. It doesn’t make you think any better of men- they are soooo weak here, but it says a lot about how woman learn to cope in terrible circumstances.

  3. A brilliant analysis. I agree with you!

  4. Interesting analysis. I confess my reaction to watching wasn’t even remotely similar, but then I’ve only watched it once. Maybe upon a second or third viewing I’d be able to see Carol in a more sympathetic light.

  5. I think many RA fans tend to see John as the perfect man and Carol as not good enough for him but my take on SH has always been closer to yours. John is a good, reliable man and won’t do any of the things other men did to her, but I don’t think he is able to meet her needs on many levels. No matter how weak and egoistic Andrew was, I don’t think Carol could share the same things with John she had in common with Andrew.

    • Agreed. Carol had been abused and let down all her life. I find it hard to believe that John can ‘kiss and make it all better’. I think she had to rely on herself all her life, so sitting back and letting John look after her could never be an option. By the way, I didn’t write about this in my post, but how does it happen a pregnant 12-year-old is seen as a loose woman, a slut? Isn’t this statutory rape in most countries in the world? Wouldn’t it require an investigation?

  6. Bardzo ciekawa analiza. Przyznam, że kiedy pierwszy raz oglądałam „Sparkhouse” bardzo współczułam Carol i nie mogłam wybaczyć Andrew jego egoizmu. Po drugim obejrzeniu wzrósł mój podziw dla Johna, bo nagle okazało się że ma bardzo dużo do „udźwignięcia” przecież to czego dowiedział się o Carol to swoista puszka Pandory, a mimo to on pozostał z nią.

    To jest naprawdę bardzo wartościowy serial, szkoda, że nasza TV tylko raz go emitowała i to bardzo późno w nocy. Ech…

    • Dzięki Ania 🙂 Ja już nawet nie szukam niczego do oglądania w naszej TV. Lektor jest rozbraniający, nie wspominając o tłumaczeniu. A że pana Ryszarda warto nie tylko oglądać, ale też posłuchać, wolę mieć go (na własność) na DVD 😉

  7. You made some very intriguing observations, many of which I didn’t make upon my one and only viewing. Even though I knew Sparkhouse was based on Wuthering Heights, I hadn’t noticed the Gothic connection until your discourse.

    It’s worth seeing again.

    • Had American Gothic Lit this semester at college. Last year I wouldn’t either, but after reading a lot of books from New England and Southern Gothic, it just all made sense to me . Thanks Bccmee!

  8. Zgadzam się z tobą w każdym punkcie IWantToBeAPinUp. Bardzo lubię ten mroczny serial i to dziwne miasteczko pełne pokaleczonych, nieszczęśliwych ludzi- którego jedynym jasnym punktem jest nieśmiały, zakochany,słaby John.
    . Ja także odbieram bardzo pozytywnie poobijaną przez zycie Carol,jest taka silna i zdeterminowana-matka w wieku 12-tu lat,kochająca swoją córkę-czy któras z nas jest w stanie wyobrazić sobie jak to jest być zgwałcona przez własnego ojca.? Nie ma większej zdrady, wiekszej krzywdy.
    Która młoda dziewczyna przezyłaby coś takiego nie kończąc w wariatkowie?
    Wracajac do Ryszarda, dla mnie rola Johna Standringa jest jedną z ulubionych. Chciałabym dla niego tylko takich ról.:)

    • To ważna dla niego rola, i może fajnie że ktoś dostrzegł w nim aktora, a nie ślicznotkę. Teraz to przy każdej okazji chcą by ściągał koszulkę i gacie. Nie mam im tego za złe, sama bym mu kazała gdybym mogła 😉

  9. …nie znaczy to że nie lubię oglądać dolnych partii Richarda Armitage w obcisłych skórzanych spodniach.:)~

  10. Yes. I agree. It always troubles me when I read a fanfic that makes Carol into the villainness. She’s trying to do what she can in a series of horrible situations.

    re: the 12 year old pregnant — I always read this as a trope that was supposed to point at the prejudices in the direction of ignorance / animal quality of farmers. “They’re not any better, they rut with their children.”

    As to the John / Carol pairing — for my her line that he’s a good farmer and won’t cut corners is decisive. She’s decided to go into partnership with someone who’s trustworthy and that marriage / sex / children is the exchange she will make. She’s pretty clearheaded in that regard. It’s just that she can’t forget that emotional connection. But there are so many places when she affirms that decision that it’s hard to believe she isn’t going to stand behind it — when she tells Andrew to leave her alone, when she raises that shotgun to stop the fighting and goes in the house with John, etc.

    • Carol may be hot-headed, but she’s also very strong, and I have no doubt she would keep her word.
      I feel like it was Andrew who was the wrong-doer, the one who complicated their relationship, who was unjust. He was, after all, raised as an only child, in an affluent family. In the past few days I’ve often talked with different women in RL about men nowadays, how they are raised as ‘the big strong man’ by their families, but in reality they are unable to cope with the role, and their egos stand in the way of any emotional progress. Andrew is the perfect example of how men are egotistical, narrow-minded, and unable to cope with the consequences of his actions. In Polish we call this ‘the gardeners dog’ syndrome. Although he had moved on, was married and had a life, he couldn’t stand the thought that Carol could have the same.

      • I don’t like to generalize about men but I have a tendency to agree with you. The strong person is the one who can put his/her needs in the background as needed (and cope on his/her terms with her own weaknesses without having to make others responsible for them), and it’s a mystery to me why we (I include myself in this although I have no kids) don’t do a better job of raising men who can manage that. In Andrew’s case, of course he has no example of such behavior at home …

        • I didn’t mean to generalise, I can only judge the situation as I see it. As a strong woman, I attract men that, on the surfice, are equally strong, but carry so much baggage of insecurity. Unfortunately, they expect their partner to take over the role of their mother.
          I’ve always said that a mothers love for her son is one of the hardest there is. It can easily take a bad turn, and I find it disturbing when women mention that thier son is the type of man she never met, fell in love with, dated. I think to myself that 10 years down the line some poor woman is going to try to satisfy her boyfriends / husbands needs, and to meet his expectations, and she will fail.
          I guess it’s similar to the relationship between a father and the daughter. Don’t they say that women are influenced by their fathers in the choices they make when picking a mate?

  11. Pingback: Legenda 33: Stuff worth reading « Me + Richard Armitage

  12. I’m inclined to agree with your view of Carol – she WAS a victim. But a victim who became stronger than her victimisers. Is Standring a passive-aggressive character? He might be stalwart, but is he a match for Carol’s strength? A very Gothic tale, indeed. Is Carol Heathcliff, or is she the relentless Cathy? I tend to feel that Standring is delusional about Carol – run, John, run!

    • I think Carol is Heathcliff, through and through. Andrew is Cathy, who toys with her, but also pushes her into action. I like the fat that Sparkhouse is merely a nod to Wuthering Heights, but not an exact transplant to the 21st c. John would never run, because he is also a victim- of his loneliness and longing. He woud rather have Carol partly, than not have her at all. Neither of them have ever really known love, that’s why they tend to settle for so little of it.

  13. Pingback: Drowning Mulligan « I Want to be a Pin-Up

Have Your Say!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: