Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Male-Female relationships in best-selling “modern Gothic” novels


This study is a content analysis of 24 randomly selected best-selling “modern Gothic” or “romantic suspense” novels published between 1950 and May 1974. The focus was on the interrelationships between the male and female characters in terms of their sex-role characterization and the attitudes and behavior of the hero towards the heroine and the supporting female actor. The findings indicate that (1) the hero displays more positive attitudes and behavior toward the nontraditional woman (generally the heroine) than towards the traditional one (generally the minor female) and (2) the hero who chooses the less traditional female is usually characterized as traditional.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Angrist, S. S. The study of sex roles. Journal of Social Issues, 1969, 25, 215–232.

  2. Chafetz, J. S. Masculine/feminine or human? Itasca, Ill.: Peacock Press, 1974.

  3. Deegan, D. Y. The stereotype of the single woman in American novels: A social study with implications for the education of women. New York: Octagon Books, 1951.

  4. Duffy, M. On the road to Manderley. Time, 1971, 97, 95–96.

  5. Ewing, E. M. Gothic mania. New York Times, May 11, 1975, pp. 10, 12.

  6. Ferguson, M. A. Images of women in literature. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1973.

  7. Gothic sidelights. Bookletter, 1974, 1, 2.

  8. Haskell, M. From reverence to rape: The treatment of women in the movies. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974.

  9. O'Kelly, C. G. Sexism in children's television. Journalism Quarterly, 1974, 51, 722–724.

  10. Ruggiero, J. A., and Weston, L. C. Sex-role characterization of women in “modern gothic” novels. Pacific Sociological Review, April 1977, pp 279–300.

  11. Weitzman, L. J., Eifler, D., Hokada, E., and Ross, C. Sex-role socialization in picture books for preschool children. American Journal of Sociology, 1972, 77, 1125–1150.

  12. Women on Words and Images. Dick and Jane as victims: Sex stereotyping in children's readers. Princeton: Women on Words and Images, 1972.

Download references

Author information

Additional information

Response Analysis Corporation

The authors wish to express their gratitude to William Diggins for his assistance in the coding and analysis of the male characters.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Weston, L.C., Ruggiero, J.A. Male-Female relationships in best-selling “modern Gothic” novels. Sex Roles 4, 647–655 (1978).

Download citation


  • Social Psychology
  • Content Analysis
  • Positive Attitude
  • Heroine
  • Female Character