Gothic literature changes from age to age to reflect the current socio-cultural situation of the time. Stories such as The Italian, The Monk, Vathek and writers such as Poe, Carter, Radcliffe and Shelley have presented facets of the Gothic. The Gothic is the representation of the darker side of awareness, a realm of neurosis and morbidity whereby it is a fantasy world that reveals secrets of the human personality.
In this excerpt of The Italian, there are typical Gothic conventions of its age. From the setting, there is the idea of the Sublime in which it is a reflection of a situation of vastness in an imaginative, fantastical visual experience. The “grandeur” and the “proportions” in the “memorial” invoked Ellena’s awe and excess of emotions due to its majestic, grand and infinite characteristics that seems to overpower and pervade the environment for “everywhere prevailed”. From the imagery of infinite “proportions” and “mass”, man is seen as insignificant. The idea of the Sublime is further exemplified in Vathek, of the “immeasurable plain” that reveled in its “infinity” in which it had “overpowered” man until “he fell prostrate on his face”. The limitations of man are magnified in contrast to the environment thus challenging the senses and emphasizing the insignificance of humanity. Ellena’s awe and appreciation of nature overwhelms her thus it rendered the preconceived notion that humanity is in control of the world and destiny as obsolete. Thus man is left hopeless and impotent. This idea of the irrelevance of man in comparison to nature is typically Gothic for it undermines man’s state universally.
A recurrent characteristic is the internalization of decay and destruction. The setting itself reflected the “interior” of the villa in which it was projected as the “chamber of ruins”. The colour of the villa reflects the hollowness and the obscurity of the character. It foretells the idea that we cannot escape corruption for it is pervasive from the physical aspect to the intangible sense of “gloom”. This metaphorical sense of internalization of decay is seen in Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher in which the destruction of the Usher family is manifested in the “melancholy House of Usher”. Decay is manifested from its physical form to the innermost intrusive intangible form. Thus when corruption comes from deep inside in its mos...
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...re such connection to the ideas of logic and reasoning is different in Gothic perceptions if human will triumph over the Gothic. Humanity prided itself as superior due to intellectual reasoning and will. In The Italian Ellena believed she could overcome “every fear for herself”. Thus there is the belief that will and reasoning would save her and her father but in the typical Gothic convention in which human logic and determination would fail no matter how good the odds. Therefore the shred of human resilience evident in Ellena even though there was “momentary hesitation” but she overcame it to face her fears and the possibility of death signified the failure of the Gothic. Another instance of the victory of human will was when she had nothing to hold onto except “hope”, nothing solid or tangible, only a shred of mental capacity that had held her through. However the loss of human capacity to reason would mean the loss of “hope” thus that in itself is considered as Gothic.
In conclusion the passage is mainly Gothic due to a number of close characteristics to typical conventions. Nonetheless The Italian has unique qualities that distinguish it from mainstream Gothic literature.
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