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 the typical gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, and Jane Austen’s parody of the gothic novel in Northanger Abbey work together to illustrate gothic realism through the compare and contrast between some of the main characters.
The first two characters that represent the dynamic between gothic and gothic parody are Manfred and General Tilney. Looking at The Castle of Otranto the readers see Manfred in action when he says, “Curse on Hippolita! Cried Manfred: forget her from this moment, as I do. In short, lady, you have missed a husband undeserving of your charms: they shall now be better disposed of. Instead of a sickly boy, you shall have a husband in the prime of his age, who will know how to value your beauties…Hippolita is no longer my wife; I divorce her from this hour. (Walpole 25). This excerpt illustrates how selfish and domineering Manfred is.
Another line, “Heaven nor hell shall impede my designs” portrays that Manfred will stop at nothing to get what he wants (Walpole 26). This illustrates how many gothic male figures acted as an unstoppable force. Manfred here is considered the monster of the novel because of his hyper-emotion and the way that power or male dominance is the driving force of his motives.
The character from Northanger Abbey that resembles Manfred in some aspects is General Tilney. A section from the novel starts with, “the General’s impatience for the appearance of his eldest son, nor by the displeasure he expressed at his laziness when Captain Tilney at last came down. She was quite painted by the severity of his father’s reproof, which seemed disproportionate to the offense” (Austen 158). Here the reader sees General Tilney painted as a domineering figure who doesn’t like it when his children do not follow his instructions.
The narrator continues by saying, “General Tilney, though so charming a man, seemed always a check upon his children’s spirits, and scarcely any thing was said but by himself” (Austen 159). This illustrates that he is a stern father figure which is just like Manfred. It has to be the General’s way or no way at all. The General is different from Manfred though in a couple of different ways. “‘I trust,’ said the General, with a most satisfied smile, ‘that it will very speedily be furnished: it waits only for a lady’s taste’” (Austen 220). The General has a soft side for Catherine as well as for material things. This makes the General appear more realistic in contrast to Manfred. This is where readers see the Gothic and realism mixing together. Austen, by creating a character that parodies traditional gothic monsters produces a character that...