Theme Of Context In Gothic Literature

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During legal studies this past term, I’ve learnt that the law has to be a reflection of the values and ethics of the wider community. Due to the ever changing shift in what people view as right and wrong, constant law reform is necessary to make sure that the beliefs of the majority of society is represented. Similarly to the law, texts are manifestations of the context in which they are created. This can particularly be seen by delving into the Gothic Genre and taking an in-depth look into the Castle of Otranto and the Turn of the Screw. This presentation will compare and contrast the effect of context on the literary conventions of gothic fiction in the aforementioned texts. Specifically analyzing the supernatural, sense of danger and the…show more content…
James was the son of a known psychologist, Henry James Sr. The plot of this novel revolves around the narrating Governess and her experiences with Miles and Flora, the children under her charge. Yet, dangerous apparitions loom over the Castle Bly prompting the Governess to desperately protect the precious children at all costs. The context in which each book was written changes the way it depicts supernatural themes and elements. The Castle of Otranto was written in 1764, a period now remembered as the ‘Neoclassical Era’. Neoclassicism was a harkening back to the old, enlightened school of thought which prioritized rational thinking and logical reasoning. The Castle of Otranto rejected these ideas and embraced a more supernatural, melodramatic style of story telling thus creating the genre of gothic fiction. Due to this fact the supernatural themes presented in the Walpole’s novel were not so much used as a threat that people questioned but a device to propel the story and present facts to the reader. As Manfred, the tyrannical ruler of Otranto, is about to marry the women who was betrothed to his late son “three drops of blood fell from the nose of Alfonso’s statue” (p. 93). The supernatural element here is used as a plot device as it serves no…show more content…
Yet where said danger is directed changes due to context. During the Castle of Otranto the women of the book are constantly under threat at the hands of the malevolent Manfred. The women are constantly targeted and this is seen through Manfred’s desire for Isabella - his late son’s betrothed and his disregard for his wife - Hippolita. Hippolita, especially is characterized as weak, feeble and hysterical. She unswervingly bows to the will of her tyrannical husband “Hippolita needed little persuasions to bend her to his pleasure (pg 89)." This is a result of context because 18th Century England was a period of time where women were marginalized and considered to be subservient to men. Her subservient nature is hyperbolized to show that she easily swayed by the will of her husband. This paints her in a weak light and makes the reader feel as the danger is directed towards her because she is exposed to the volatile nature of her husband. Isabella too is in constant danger because of Manfred’s obsession to marry her. “I desired you once before,” said Manfred angrily, ... “In short, Isabella, since I cannot give you my son, I offer you myself.” Manfred’s angry tone accentuates the danger that is placed upon Isabella as the perception is given that he is forcing himself upon her. This is a result of context as women were perceived as unable to help themselves and thus a
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