The Cruel Castle
“Emily gazed with melancholy awe upon the castle, which she understood to be Montoni’s; for, though it was now lighted up by the setting sun, the gothic greatness of its features, and its mouldering walls of dark grey stone, rendered it a gloomy and sublime object. As she gazed, the light died away on its walls, leaving a melancholy purple tint, which spread deeper and deeper, as the thin vapour crept up the mountain, while the battlements above were still tipped with splendour. From those, too, the rays soon faded, and the whole edifice was invested with the solemn duskiness of evening. Silent, lonely, and sublime, it seemed to stand the sovereign of the scene, and to frown defiance on all, who dared to invade its solitary reign. As the twilight deepened, its features became more awful in obscurity, and Emily continued to gaze, till its clustering towers were alone seen, rising over the tops of the woods, beneath whose thick shade the carriages soon after began to ascend” (Radcliffe 352-353).
Ann Radcliffe’s novel entitled, The Mysteries of Udolpho, follows the story of young Emily St. Aubert, who is orphaned and experiencing her life go through a downward spiral. Throughout the course of the novel, Emily realizes that she has nearly no one to turn to, and begins to lose her way as the people around her prove that they cannot be trusted. With seemingly supernatural terrors and deceiving mysteries all around her, Emily is forced to leave her childhood behind as she is thrust into a world that has become nothing short of a nightmare. The Mysteries of Udolpho is just as much a coming of age novel as it is a gothic one as it depicts a loss of innocence as Emily loses her connection to all that she once believed to be true, which can sometimes be even more terrifying than a gloomy, haunted castle could ever be. Through Radcliffe’s vivid description of the forbidding fortress that is the castle of Udolpho, details about Emily St. Aubert’s character and situation are revealed. With the use of gothic conventions in the description of the castle, Radcliffe’s language in this powerful passage helps to reveal more about the young heroine.
Through the language used in the passage describing the castle of Udolpho, details about Emily’s character and her situation are revealed. Even at this point in the novel, Emily is going through a dark time as she has already endured a profound loss with the passing of her parents. As Emily arrives at her new home, “she gazed with melancholy awe upon the castle, which she understood to be Montoni’s; for, though it was now lighted up by the setting sun, the gothic greatness of its features, and its mouldering walls of dark grey stone, rendered it a gloomy and sublime object” (352). The castle is cruel and dark, much like her situation and her loss of connection to her childhood. Her father was kind and thoughtful, and Montoni, like his castle, is cold and indifferent, if not altogether cruel. But although the castle may be cold and haunting in appearance, it is strong and resolute as it stands tall like a fortress, just as Emily proves able to do. The shadowy structure appears “silent, lonely, and sublime, [and] it seemed to stand the sovereign of the scene, and to frown defiance on all, who dared to invade its solitary reign” (352). Emily is also alone and lonely as she realizes quickly that she has nearly no one to depend on, and has lost the most important people in the world to her. She has gone through horrible things, but she has still remained strong and finds hope and solace through her poetry and love of nature. The castle is described as being gloomy, melancholy, silent, and frowning which may communicate and reflect Emily’s state of mind (352). She is in a dark place mentally, emotionally, and physically and often becomes silent and withdraws inside herself to think and reflect on her situation. The castle is in some ways a prison meant to keep people in, and Emily is in many ways imprisoned in her own life now that she is in the care of people who do not have her best interests at heart, and who aren’t giving her any say in her own life. The castle is referred to as “sovereign,” and it truly is (352). It presents a major barrier to Emily, and will have complete power and rule over where she can go and who she can see. She is literally trapped, which is so vastly different from the expansive freedom that she is accustomed to in nature.
This passage that Radcliffe descriptively wrote contains many common gothic conventions. Describing scenes with a dichotomy of light and dark is often seen in gothic novels. Light is described on the castle as “[dying] away on its walls,” as darkness begins to appear (352). The “sublime” is another common aspect that often appears in novels of the gothic genre. Radcliffe describes the castle as being a sublime object that Emily gazes in awe at (352). Weather is another component that renders itself important in this genre of fiction, as it can often be used to set the scene and open up a plot. Weather is described by a “thin vapour [that] crept up the mountain” in the “solemn duskiness of evening” (352). The vividness of a misty, foggy, and dark night makes the castle seem more haunting and forbidding. The castle is also described as being melancholy and frowning defiance, which communicates a feeling of dread and impending doom, which is an important aspect of gothic conventions.
This passage relates to the novel as a whole because although the castle is terrifying and full of seemingly supernatural mysteries, it is the place that will help lead Emily to knowledge about her family’s past. This castle presents a major barrier in Emily’s path and her fate may depend on uncovering the mysteries in Udolpho. This castle is just as dark as everything else that she has endured throughout the course of the novel, but she is a girl who was brought up to be strong and not let her emotions get the best of her. She will be brave and keep fighting, and find the light at the end of all of this vast darkness. Once she can escape from this forbidding prison, she can finally be free and reunite with the love of her life.
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“Emily gazed with melancholy awe upon the castle, which she understood to be Montoni’s; for, though it was now lighted up by the setting sun, the gothic greatness of its […]