Outlining The Castle of Otranto
Prompt: Taking The Castle of Otranto as your example, outline the main conventions of the Gothic novel, and show how your knowledge of these conventions affects your reading of Northanger Abbey. Is Northanger Abbey most accurately described as parody of the Gothic genre, or is there a more complicated relationship going on? Answer: Gothic novels purport to revive old stories and beliefs, exploring personal and psychical encounters with the taboo (Williams, 2000). The genre, as typified by The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, involves a beautiful innocent young woman who is held captive by an older, powerful, evil man in his large, ancient and gloomy residence for his own lustful purposes and who escapes, with the aid of supernatural manifestations, errors caused by “false surmises and conjectures based on partial narratives” (Hoeveler, 1995, p127) and a handsome young hero. Walpole's novel centers around the tyrant where the female writers in the genre, for example, Ann Radcliffe, focus more on the female victim and what she is thinking and feeling, exploring women’s anxieties about their lack of control of their feelings, their bodies, and their property, and their desire for something far more extraordinary and exciting than simply to be a domestic woman. The use of the supernatural by Walpole is so frequent and monstrous as to excite laughter rather than terror but for Radcliffe and Austen the supernatural is not visible but is an invisible hand that makes sure that good always triumphs and evil is always punished (Andriopoulos, 1999) . It is necessary to be aware of these Gothic conventions to be receptive too much of the humor in Northanger Abbey, as the humor arises from the similarity or contrast of events to the gothic. There are three gothic-like aspects to the novel. The first is the character of the General as gothic villain, patriarch and usurper and the Abbey as his gothic residence; the second is the...
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