The Deception and Destruction of Purity in The Italian
Purity in the Gothic genre can be perceived from so many points of view. It involves sex, beauty, perception, and people's position in society. "The Italian" has many characters that behold either one or more of these traits. In this paper, we will explore how Ann Radcliffe uses purity and the deception and destruction of it to enhance her character's role in the Gothic genre.
"The sweetness and fine expression of her voice attracted his attention to her figure, which had a distinguished air of delicacy and grace; but her face was concealed in her veil. (page 5)" From the very beginning of the book, Radcliffe lets us know that beauty and attraction will play an intricate part in the development of the story. But she also lets us know that it will not be an open perception, she hints toward an element of intrigue combined with the person's role that they play within society. Through the entire book, we find that Vivaldi is obsessed with the beauty of Ellena. Ellena appears to be so perfect and pure, Vivaldi can not help but to fall in love with her. Here sex and beauty themselves end up being the instigators of deception and destruction.
As Vivaldi tries to get closer to Ellena, she seems to withdraw more and more into hiding. This creates an air of intrigue that makes Ellena more than irresistible to Vivaldi. This curiosity and intrigue that perplexes Vivaldi only becomes greater when he meets a mysterious monk on the road to Ellena's house. The monk warns Vivladi that he needs to stop his pursuit of Ellena and then he mysteriously disappears. So Vivaldi's intrigue that ends up being so deceptive and destructive, now exists on two levels with Ellena and the monk.
Perception often can be deceiving. The old saying that you should "never judge a book by its cover," is so apparent in the Gothic genre. "That lawn conceals her beauty As the thin cloud, just silver'd by the rays, The trembling moon: think ye 'tis shrouded from The curious eye? (page 129)" One way the perception is obscured in "The Italian" is by veils. Veils are used throughout the book to deceive the perception of who and what people really are. Some examples of this are when Vivaldi first sees Ellena; he falls madly in love with her, yet he can not even see her face. Another example would be when Vivaldi is arrested by the Inquisition; Ellena is wearing the veil of a nun, which gives the perception that Vivaldi stole her from her order. When truly, it was Olivia's veil that Ellena had borrowed to wear, she was not actually a nun. These are just a couple of examples of how the purity of perception can be destroyed and proven false when you look closer and remove the veil. An old Chinese proverb that I once read on a fortune cookie that sums up perception of the Gothic genre is that "Distance lends enchantment to the view."
People's position in society was very important in...