English 5720: Franta
The Contradiction in Women’s Roles in Castle of Otranto
While each character in Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto seem to have their own dispositions that fuel the story, these dispositions also create a pattern intrinsic to gender. The males of the story are powerful and oppressive to their female counterparts. In contrast, the women remain devoted and submissive. Although it may seem that Walpole is trying to degrade women by use of male domination, he is actually focusing on the importance of the female role in the derivation of male power.
Manfred, the prince of Otranto is at a loss as his only son Conrad dies and there is no longer anyone to pass the royal blood to another generation. After this event takes place Manfred exemplifies his character as being engrossed with power. In an attempt to produce another heir to the thrown he is determined to divorce his wife and marry Isabella. “Hippolita is no longer my wife; I divorce her from this hour. Too long has she cursed me by her unfruitfulness: my fate depends on having sons,-and this night I trust will give a new date to my hopes (25).” While Manfred’s wife has been nothing but devoted to her husband and is filled with sorrow after she hears of his plans, he remains to lack sympathy or concerns for his wife’s desires. Isabella is also at left in a position without a voice of her own; she must marry Manfred.
Against Manfred’s insistence that Isabella marry him, she flees to avoid marrying such a terrible man. While fleeing Manfred Isabella begins to discover how she can use her femininity in her own power. “Her gentleness had never raised her an enemy, and conscious innocence made her hope that, unless sent by the prince’s order to seek her, his servants would rather assist than prevent her flight (28).” In many instances, characteristics of femininity are viewed as weaknesses to the female characters in the novel. In this instance, Isabella’s...