Creolizing the Gothic Narrative
This chapter explores the connections between—and gendered implications of—the Romantic fascination with Obeah and literary representations of witchcraft in England, focusing on Charlotte Smith’s The Story of Henrietta (1800). Obeah, the folk religion of the West African slaves, provides the element of the supernatural, and, significantly, Henrietta’s Gothic nightmare begins and ends with Henrietta’s introduction to and interactions with Obi women. The chapter traces and analyzes Smith’s remapping of contemporary cultural anxieties in Britain surrounding the idea of the witch onto an historically oppressed people and a foreign landscape. Henrietta’s observation of the active participation of women in the Obeah tradition provides a sharp contrast to her awareness of her own helplessness and inability to fend for herself as a result of the limitations imposed upon women by the patriarchal structure of church and state in Britain. Smith explicitly criticizes the current social conditions for women in England, which reduce women to the subject position of slaves. More interesting is her preoccupation with the subversive figure of the female witch and how the presence of the Obi women disrupt the narrative flow of Smith’s story, redirecting it in ways that Smith may not have anticipated.