When I think of a gate, I think of a small ‘doorway’ in a fence.
But a ‘gate’ can also refer to a much more foreboding structure. The illustration below is of the gate to a city, which looks more like a castle. These gates were, of course, built to look intimidating.
This sort of gate is also known as a ‘gatehouse’: a house standing by a gateway, especially on a country estate. But historically, a gatehouse referred to a room over a city or palace gate. This was often used as a prison.
A ‘gate’ can also be a hole in the side of a mountain.
No surprise that Heaven is often thought to have a gate before you get to the good stuff.
Then again, a gate doesn’t have to look like a fortress to be scary.
In this horror movie from 1989, a motorcycle gang kidnaps a young woman, Josie, from a diner. Then they kill her.
Many years later, the murdered young woman’s father finds a magic crystal that can bring the dead back to life. He uses this crystal to re-animate his daughter.
He lets her seduce any young men who visit the small town, which is called Hellgate. Then he kills them as a twisted sort of revenge.
That’s the backstory to the events in this film, in which four young students, two boys and two girls (the classic Scooby-Doo ensemble), holiday near this cursed town.
A well-deserved 3.6 on IMDb.
FENCES LEADING THE EYE IN COMPOSITION
Like clouds or roads trailing into the distance, there’s nothing like a fence to add depth to a composition.
He stood his hoe against the split-rail fence. He walked down the cornfield until he was out of sight of the cabin. He swung himself over the fence on his two hands. Old Julia the hound had followed his father in the wagon to Grahamsville, but Rip the bull-dog and Perk the new feice [a type of Irish dog] saw the form clear the fence and ran toward him. Rip barked deeply but the voice of the small mongrel was high and shrill. They wagged deprecatory short tails when they recognized him. He sent them back to the yard. They watched after him indifferently. They were a sorry pair, he thought, good for nothing but the chase, the catch and the kill. They had no interest in him except when he brought them their plates of table scraps night and morning. Old Julia was a gentle thing with humans, but her worn-toothed devotion was only for his father, Penny Baxter. Jody had tried to make up to Julia, but she would have none of him.Third paragraph from The Yearling (1938)
Some artists seem to really enjoy making use of fences in composition. Arthur Getz is one of them.
Another is John Northcote Nash. Or perhaps it’s simply that if you enjoy painting slightly human-impacted landscapes, fences are going to be a feature.
Spencer Gore is a similar artist to John Nash.
THE FENCE DIVIDING LOVERS
The symbolism is clear: desired intimacy, but not yet.
A good example of a fence between two children becoming friends can be seen in the picture book Moving Molly by Shirley Hughes.
FENCE SYMBOLISM IN VICTORIAN STORIES
In the Victorian novel the space seems to be limited to the interior from which the main character is merely bound to watch the distant hills with the desire to wander anywhere they would like to. In Jane Eyre and partially also in Wuthering Heights the authors seem to have created a space structured by walls surrounding the garden and limiting the movement of characters, who feel both physically and mentally imprisoned inside the house. The imprisonment within the walls of both the houses and gardens is further compounded through the limitation of movement within the distance in the open space. The heroines observe the hilly horizons that seem too far away and long to explore the space beyond the hills, e.g. Jane Eyre or Catherine Linton. Their desire for the freedom of movement is associated with the spiritual need to break the Victorian convention, which the individuals consider limiting the course of their lives.Concepts of Space in Victorian Novels by Alice Sukdolova
THE FENCE IN JAMES BOND MOVIES
Impregnable Fortress Impregnated: Indispensable scene in all James Bond movies and many other action pictures, especially war films. The IPI sequence begins early in the picture, with long shots of a faraway fortress and Wagnerian music on the sound track. Eventually the hero gains entry to the fortress, which is inevitably manned by technological clones in designer uniforms. Sequence ends with destruction of fortress, as clones futilely attempt to save their marvelous machines. (See “The Guns of Navarone,” etc.)Ebert’s Guide to Practical Filmgoing: A Glossary of Terms for the Cinema of the ’80s
VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF A WIRE FENCE
The fourth wall is sometimes a fence.
THE FENCE BETWEEN HOME AND ADVENTURE
Frequently in children’s stories, an illustrator (or writer) depicts a character gazing from a window out at the wider world. The fence can serve an identical storytelling function. Like the glass of a window, the fence is a boundary between home and world, but children can easily find their way onto the other side of it.
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds features a vegetable garden in which vegetables come to life. A fence is part of the solution to the main character’s problem. In picture books, even into the present, boy characters more frequently solve a problem by getting out the construction tools than girls do. (Traditionally, girl characters solve problems by tidying up. I’m not kidding.)
THE IMPENETRABLE IRON GATE
Aunt Fanny knows when the world will end….
Aunt Fanny has always been somewhat peculiar. No one is surprised that while the Halloran clan gathers at the crumbling old mansion for a funeral she wanders off to the secret garden. But when she reports the vision she had there, the family is engulfed in fear, violence, and madness. For Aunt Fanny’s long-dead father has given her the precise date of the final cataclysm!
FENCE AS MORAL DILEMMA
THE BARBED WIRE FENCE
The barbed wire fence is standard and iconic in my home country (New Zealand) but in other parts of the world is strongly associated with prison and concentration camps.
Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp—with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would play any popular song except the nation’s #1 hit: “Don’t Fence Me In.”
Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family’s attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention—and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.
Vienna. 1936. Three young friends spend a perfect day together, unaware that around them Europe is descending into a growing darkness and that events will soon mean that they are ripped apart from each other as their lives take very different directions…
With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.
But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?
But a fence and gate doesn’t have to be made of barbed wire to feel dangerous.
THE (WHITE) PICKET FENCE OF SUBURBAN UTOPIA
THE JAPANESE INVISIBLE FENCE: NURIKABE (PLASTER WALL)
FENCE AS LIMINAL SPACE
Header painting: Talbot Hughes – A Secret Assignation 1898 fence