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Gothic Fiction: The Representation of Evil in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto

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Gothic Fiction: The Representation of Evil in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel written by Horace Walpole. It is regarded as the first Gothic novel, initiating a new literary genre which became extremely popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Gothic literature’s desire to explore the unknown, the unexplainable, inexplicable and the terrifying can be seen as a reaction to the Enlightenment’s emphasis on the rational and knowable. The Enlightenment rejected the belief in superstition, and religion. Reason, deductive logic, and observation were the methods of examining the world. A clash of these two approaches is noticeable in Otranto. The novel violates 18th century standard of polite culture and proportion, which results in its being so popular among Walpole’s contemporaries, and is a source of different interpretations for modern readers. Evil is an important part of the book, it is presented in the actions of the main character of the novel, Manfred. The atmosphere of the setting can also be described as evil. Rosemary Jackson claims that evil can be examined from two perspectives: one: rational, and second-using supernatural elements to explain something. The former represents the Enlightenment, the latter-medieval ‘Dark Ages.’ Jackson writes: “[E]vil is caused by some otherworldly demonic force, coming from outside the human, or evil is caused because of the manifestation of human unconscious desire”(52). It depends on the reader what approach to choose for their understanding of the novel. The situatio... ... middle of paper ... ...Manfred and the castle is destruction. Works Cited Anolik, Ruth Bienstock. Horrors of Possesion: The Gothic Struggle wit the Law. Austin, Texas: Haverford College Press, 2008. Clery, E.J. Introduction to: The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Howells, Coral Ann. Love, Mystery and Misery: Feeling in Gothic Fiction. London: Athlone Press, 1995. Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London: Methuen, 1981. MacAndrew, Elizabeth. The Gothic Tradition in Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. 1532. Dante University of America Press, 2003. Sage, Victor. The Gothick Novel. London: The Macmillan Press, 1990. Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story. 1764. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
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