When a person thinks about gothic today, they might think of a sparkly vampire or a hunky Frankenstein in popularized films. This has led to parodies upon these adaptations of the gothic. This relationship between traditional gothic characters and parodies is not a new subject but a very interesting dynamic. I would like to discuss how one scene from the typical gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, and a scene from Jane Austen’s parody of the gothic novel in Northanger Abbey contrast in many different ways to illustrate gothic tropes as well as Austen’s perspective view on the subject of the gothic through the use of, diction, setting, character and tone.
The diction in each novel is very different for both. In The Castle of Otranto, Walpole uses words like, “curdled”, “terror”, and “darkness” which connote a negativity meaning (Walpole 28). This is a traditional gothic trope in the sense that these words are the basic vocabulary usually used in gothic novels. Using these types of words create a dark or fearful atmosphere that is essential for the mood of traditional gothic novels.
The diction that is used in Northanger Abbey depicts the gothic in a different light. Austen writes phrases and words such as, "fine old place,” “explore our way,” and “snugly” which set up a different atmosphere for the reader (Austen 161). “Fine old place” doesn’t connote anything dark or negative like in Walpole’s novel, but more of a place that is homely with a lot of shared family memories like the average English home would be like (Austen 161). This gives off a positive vibe to readers. “Explore our way” implies that the place of topic is welcome and open for visitors (Austen 161). The environment is welcoming unlike the scene from Walpole’s novel (Austen 161). “Snugly” infers that this place is warm and cozy (Austen 161). This creates a comfortable and safe environment as well.
What Austen is doing with the diction in the novel is illustrating a warm mood for the novel. It is the opposite of the dark and gloomy scene from Walpole. It suggests that Austen’s piece is poking fun at the way gothic novels use words that create a negative environment for readers. By creating a comforting environment for readers, Austen is conveying that the atmosphere of dwellings in England at this time even is normal; it’s not something like what is depicted in The Castle of Otranto.
This leads to the setting of these novels. In Walpole, the novel’s setting is described by, “It could only be, she thought, some domestic belonging to the castle…she was near the mouth of the subterraneous cavern” (Walpole 28). Some parts of this novel are taking place in a castle. This is another common gothic trope; the setting being in a castle. The castle is usually old and decrepit. As depicted by the excerpt, the castle usually has secret passageways and trap doors. The character, Isabella, in this scene appears to be in a cave, which is consistent with the trope of the...