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Taking The Castle Of Otranto As Your Example, Outline The Main Conventions

1327 words - 5 pages

Taking The Castle of Otranto as your example, outline the main conventions
of the Gothic novel, and show how your knowledge of

Taking The Castle of Otranto as your example, outline the main
conventions of the Gothic novel, and show how your knowledge of these
conventions affects your reading of Northanger Abbey. Is Northanger
Abbey most accurately described as parody of the Gothic genre, or is
there a more complicated relationship going on?

Gothic novels purport to revive old stories and beliefs, exploring
personal, psychical encounters with the taboo (Williams, 2000). The
genre, as typified by The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole,
involves a beautiful innocent young woman who is held captive by an
older, powerful, evil man in his large, ancient and gloomy residence
for his own lustful purposes and who escapes, with the aid of
supernatural manifestations, errors caused by “false surmises and
conjectures based on partial narratives” (Hoeveler, 1995, p127) and a
handsome young hero. Walpole's novel centers around the tyrant where
the female writers in the genre, for example, Ann Radcliffe, focus
more on the female victim and what she is thinking and feeling,
exploring women’s anxieties about their lack of control of their
feelings, their bodies, and their property, and their desire for
something far more extraordinary and exciting than simply to be a
domestic woman. The use of the supernatural by Walpole is so frequent
and monstrous as to excite laughter rather than terror but for
Radcliffe and Austen the supernatural is not visible but is an
invisible hand that makes sure that good always triumphs and evil is
always punished (Andriopoulos, 1999) .

It is necessary to be aware of these Gothic conventions to be
receptive too much of the humour in Northanger Abbey, as the humour
arises from the similarity or contrast of events to the gothic. There
are three gothic-like aspects to the novel. The first is the
character of the General as gothic villain, patriarch and usurper and
the Abbey as his gothic residence; the second is the exploration of
the dead mother’s bedroom; and the final incident involves Catherine’s
expulsion from the Abbey. Both the latter incidents end in very
ordinary, anti-climactic ways, in contrast to gothic stories. The
narrator also contrasts other ordinary incidents, with how they might
have developed in a gothic novel; for example, Catherine’s journey to
Bath is accomplished “with suitable quietness and uneventful safety.
Neither robbers nor tempests befriend them, nor one lucky overturn to
introduce them to the hero” (Austen, 1933, p19).

Many commentators have concluded that Northanger Abbey is a parody of
the Gothic genre. Whether or not one agrees with this view depends on
the definition of parody that one accepts. The Penguin Dictionary of
Literary Terms & Literary Theory offers the following relevant
defining concepts: “The imitative use of the words, style attitude,

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