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The Castle Of Otranto, By Horace Walpole

1454 words - 6 pages

Women in the 18th and 19th century were expected to follow the orders of the males in their lives. They were forced into arranged marriages to connect families in a pursuit for social power and they were expected to abide by anything the males in their lives asked of them. Free will was nonexistent. Much gothic literature effectively highlights the women’s expected role of the time. However, another aspect that seems to surface in gothic literature is whenever there is a woman who is not following the social norms, they seem to be the driving conflict behind the plotline and ultimately lead to any present happy ending.
Castle of Otranto provides a prime example of the contrasting roles of the women. Multiple times Hippolita is described as and acts in a way that reflects the ideal submissive woman. Hippolita does as Manfred says no matter what she is asked, even to the point where she follows through with the divorce Manfred desires. Hippolita is upset but does not fight it, and accepts what Manfred says and joins a monastery. Hippolita pushes her happiness and morals behind her for the benefit of her tyrannical husband. On the other side of the spectrum is Isabella, the girl who is on the right track to becoming a proper lady, but rebels against Manfred. Conrad is soon to elope with her by means of an arranged marriage and Isabella complies until the fateful day when Conrad is killed. When Manfred then sets his mind on marrying Isabella, and Isabella will not adhere to his will so her rebellion ensues. She eludes Manfred and runs away from his castle deliberately disobeying him as she pursues her own happiness. If Isabella had been submissive and married Manfred as she was told to, she would have been engaged in a union without love, thus sacrificing her happiness. Instead, she runs away creating a conflict: Manfred’s wild desire for Isabella. Manfred throws around death threats and searching for the girl mercilessly pushing everyone out of the way. Manfred, on several accounts, attempts to kill Theodore for reasons related to Isabella. Working against Manfred’s cause, Theodore facilitates Isabella’s escape from the castle and Manfred wants to kill him for it. As if Manfred searching for her wasn’t enough she also has her father racing against Manfred to find her thus causing more tension as they compete. Since Isabella ran away and now has all these people out for her, Theodore is protecting her and ends up fighting off a knight and wounding him. That knight, however, was Isabella’s father, so indirectly; Isabella’s actions caused her father to be wounded. Isabella’s simple decision to take the path of self-happiness over the typical submissive woman caused all of these events in the story. Her aversion from her social expectations is what made this story one of excitement and not a story of the typical workings of society. Isabella, following what she believed would make her happy, drove the story into one of more suspense and conflict.

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