Radcliffe's Udolpho By Jane Austen: Gothic Analysis

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Although the reader is informed of Catherine’s reading of Radcliffe’s Udolpho, Austen alludes more liberally to the gothic conventions presented in Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest when Henry refers to Radcliffe’s passage:
‘We shall not have to explore our way into a hall dimly lighted by the expiring embers of a wood fire – nor be obliged to spread our beds on the floor of a room without windows, doors or furniture’ (p.114).
Henry’s reference ridicules Catherine’s indulgence of gothic reading and foreshadows how she will fictionally position herself as the gothic heroine during her visit. Even though the reader would suspect that Henry’s comparison would trigger Catherine’s realisation, her curiosity of the manuscript echoes similarities
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As the novel progresses, Austen presents the villainous traits of General Tilney’s character. General Tilney proclaims that ‘he only valued money as it allowed him to promote the happiness of his children’ (p.150). However, General Tilney’s later actions contradict his proclamation when he banishes Catherine from the abbey. Armstrong (2012: 230) states that General Tilney’s behaviour ‘puts us in a world where behaviour is not regulated by decorum’ where women are exchanged for materialistic worth rather than the bond between Catherine and Henry. A key issue during this period was society’s tendency to value women through financial ranking which ultimately Austen …show more content…
Henry’s gothic readings enable him to sympathise with women’s hardships. Through Henry’s ability to sympathise, Austen epitomises the importance of the imagination: ‘“Mr Henry Tilney” […] began to apologise for his appearance there […] stating his impatience to be assured of Miss Morland’s having reached her home in safety’ (p.176). Henry’s sympathetic concerns reflect Adam Smith’s notion of the impartial spectator which is ‘construed by a process of internalisation of such outer people, using them as mirrors to reflect ourselves as we seek images of the proper actions to take’ (Broadie 2006: 182). Therefore, through Henry’s reflection of his father’s actions towards Catherine, he was able to identify the severity of Catherine’s hardships and reject his father’s ways. However, the novel also illuminates the faults of Henry’s disbelief of gothic imagination which restricted him from predicting his father’s cruelty. Henry’s disbelief of the gothic relates to Coleridge’s notion of the imagination regarding the supernatural. In the Lyrical Ballards, Coleridge emphasised that his use of the supernatural was aimed towards those who were willing to explore the ‘shadows of their imagination’ therefore portraying a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ (Coleridge 1834: 174) to explore the possibilities of the unknown. Similarly, this relates to Austen’s concept of the imagination in

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