Critical Analysis of a Passage from Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto Essay

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Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, is acknowledged by many as the first gothic novel. It was the first of it’s kind and many of the conventions used by Walpole, which put it in a literary genre of it’s own, were continued by authors such as Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. Many of these defining characteristics can be seen within the very first few pages of the text and for the purposes of this essay, to identify some of these conventions used and the relevance of this text to modernity I shall focus this analysis on the passage between pages twenty-four and twenty-six from the Oxford World’s Classics edition.

The gothic novel emerged during the late eighteenth century and the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, which emphasised rationality
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Diction is one of the most powerful tools that a writer has. It is a writer’s means of manipulating language to created their desired effect and it has the power to change the entire meaning and message of a text. The manipulation of diction by Walpole was to create this gothic, dark and gloomy atmosphere, to describe the characters feelings and to keep the pace of the novel. Walpole creates, in a sense, his own ‘gothic vocabulary’ and seemingly uses it, more than anything else to create this idea of gloom and terror. There are several words that appear numerous times throughout the text, whose soul purpose is to create this atmosphere of terror, and at times sorrow. Examples of this would be “trembling”, “melancholy”, “shrieked”, “fright”, “horror” and “dreaded”, and what makes the effect of these words more potent is how frequently they appear. Words such as these are also one of our only glimpses into the thoughts and feelings of the characters as there appears to be a significant lack of characterisation within the novel as on occasion you find yourself wanting to know more about personal thoughts and reactions of the characters to some of the events. This is not always possible as the novel is progressively moving on at such a fast pace, which is aided by, again, Walpole’s use of diction. He uses words such as “hastily”, “impetuously”, “tempestuously”, “pursuit”, and “flight” to let the reader know that these events are all taking place very quickly, and maybe