Castle Of Otranto Analysis

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By virtue of being the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto occupies a prime place in the Gothic literary pantheon. However, interest in Otranto has predominantly been informed by its primary position in the Gothic canon, and discussions of Walpole’s text are usually subsumed into a broader analysis of the Gothic genre. This is unsurprising given how expansive the genre has become, including famous works of literature, like Jane Eyre, Dracula and The Bloody Chamber and branching off into sub-genres that include historical, romance, detective and science fiction. Therefore, it is perhaps understandable that current critical attitudes often see Otranto as a precursor; a novel whose deficiencies are evidence that Walpole pales in comparison …show more content…
Whilst Mary Shelley’s dream conception of Frankenstein has been seen as evidence of her ‘illustrious imaginative powers’ (Bailey 22), Mary Snodgrass suggests that Walpole’s bad night explains the outlandish nature of Otranto. Some of the contemporary commentators on the novel also shared this opinion; one of Walpole’s friends, Gilly Williams, complained about the bizarre ‘wildness’ of the novel in a letter where he wrote ‘[Walpole] says it was a dream, and I fancy one when he had some feverish disposition in him’ (Walpole Letters 332). Since Walpole never wrote another novel, his authorial reputation remains squarely centred on this problem that his handling of supernatural subject matter – such as falling helmet heads and walking portraits – is somewhat crudely handled. Even Clara Reeve and Scott, notable enthusiasts of Walpole’s work, had to confess that ‘clunky, overuse’ of supernatural horror had a diminishing effect (Napier 79), whereby the reader eventually becomes, just like Manfred, ‘almost hardened to preternatural appearances’ (Walpole Otranto 3.58). Nevertheless, it seems unfair to simply dismiss the success of Otranto (still being printed in paperback) as entirely based on its Gothic descendants; there is a creative impetus behind Walpole’s novel that speaks to a visionary insight into the changing eighteenth-century culture and literary

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