The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole Essay

The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole Essay

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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 withou...


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...heir characters. By underlining the contrasting traits in their characters, they successfully criticize a society’s sexist views. They each presente the way a woman should act, and then brake the mold with a main character. In both situations, this creates conflict that helped the author’s with both plot progress and a symbol of the tough road to equality. The characters that stray from the social norms to pursue a happier more fulfilling life all end with a textbook “happily ever after” endings where as the characters that strive to keep to the tyrannical patriarchal system moving, end with poor lives, or no lives at all. Radcliffe and Walpole both claim the profound statement in their novels that the patriarchal society they live in is unfair and unjust, and there are benefits to living outside this lifestyle to those people willing to take the rough road there.

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