YMMV / Gormenghast

  • Crazy Awesome: Titus, Steerpike, and Fuchsia!
  • Complete Monster: Steerpike is a vicious sociopath who was once a kitchen boy but rose to become of the most powerful figures in Gormenghast. Steerpike sets fire to Earl Sepulchrave Groan's beloved library, resulting in the Earl's insanity and eventual suicide, setting himself up as a hero who rescued everyone else within. Steerpike burns the master of ritual, Barquentine, to death to steal his position and steadily either discredits or murders those who stand in his path while also seducing Fuchsia Groan, plotting to dispose of her as well. Steerpike kills Sepulchrave's twin sisters by sealing them in a room and leaving them to starve, murdering the former servant Flay when he and Young Earl Titus catch Steerpike gloating to the corpses years later. Escaping into the castle, Steerpike decides to destroy everyone he can if he cannot rule the castle. Described as having forsaken any conscience he might once had possessed, Steerpike will lie, cheat and murder, stopping at nothing to claim power he feels should be his.
    • In the third book, he gets some competition for Complete Monsterhood from Veil, a concentration camp guard who casually murders people, abuses Black Rose physically, psychologically and sexually, and displays no hint of any gentler emotions.
  • Creator's Pet: Titus.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Steerpike.
    • Though even the biggest leather pants fetishist may have second thoughts when they read what Steerpike planned to do to Fushsia...
  • Dumb Is Good: With the exception of Prunesquallor, the intellectual characters are depicted as cold, calculating and ruthless, most notably Steerpike and Cheeta.
    • Or detached, like Lord Sepulchrave.
  • Iconic Character, Forgotten Title: A double subversion in that Mervyn Peake considered this a series about Titus, not Gormenghast. The novella "Boy In Darkness" and the third novel, Titus Alone take place outside of Gormenghast.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Steerpike's murder of the twins.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In the second book, Steerpike's murder of Barquentine by setting him on fire, and the ensuing events in which the burning Barquentine grabs hold of him, and Steerpike only survives by diving into the moat and ends up permanently scarred.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Cheeta's mind games near the end of Titus Alone are convincing enough to trouble even the reader, who saw the castle Gormenghast through a narrator's eyes in Titus Groan and Gormenghast. The marked discontinuity between the archaic medieval nightmare of Gormenghast itself and the Crystal Spires and Togas of the outside world combined with the fact that Titus ultimately turns away rather than returning home in the end leaves the reader wondering if Steerpike, Fuchsia, Prunesquallor and all the others ever existed in the first place.
  • Paranoia Fuel: The companion novella Boy in Darkness. In its entirety. Also Nightmare Fuel.
  • The Woobie: Nannie Slagg. She's eighty years old, three feet tall, and perpetually on the verge of tears. Also, her husband died of a stroke on their wedding night. Poor woman.
    • Steerpike was a bit of a woobie early on, particularly when you consider his non-person status among the other members of the castle. And most especially when you consider that Swelter was not only tremendously abusive to the kitchen boys (including Steerpike), but it is implied that he also sexually molested and cannibalised them. A childhood like that has to mess you up a little. Even if he didn't fit his leather pants quite so well, Steerpike would have started out as a Sympathetic Murderer, at least until his first or second Moral Event Horizon.
      • A lot of the aristocracy also deserve Woobie status, because although they are completely batshit insane and a little stupid, they aren't bad people. The Opheliac Creepy Twins Cora and Clarice didn't deserve such a prolonged and brutal death at Steerpike's hands. And Fuchsia was just in love and insanely sheltered, with the hereditary insanity that seems to possess everybody in her family. You've got to feel a little sorry for her, too.
    • The "Thing" was essentially born into Woobiehood, although she dies too soon for Peake to really showcase this much.
    • Black Rose in the third book is a still young woman who saw her lover murdered, was imprisoned in a concentration camp, then freed by the guard Veil, only to suffer even worse abuse at his hands. Titus frees her, only for her to die happy the moment she's in a safe place.